September 24, 2018

“One of the best weeks of my life!”: Inspiring young leaders at Explore Aviation Summer Camp

This past July, a group of 30 eager and enthusiastic female students entering grade ten charted off onto a week of hands-on aviation activities through NAV CANADA’s first annual Explore Aviation Summer Camp. It was an experience they described as “awesome” and “one of the best weeks of my life.”

“For some people the world of air traffic control is a mysterious one,” said Kendra Kincade, an Edmonton Terminal Controller at NAV CANADA. “Not everyone knows about the seven centers across Canada that control millions of square miles of airspace over Canada and extending out over the ocean. Hosting this summer program is one way we plan to show the important work of aviation professionals and spark interest in our growing industry.”

Explore Aviation Summer Camp was spearheaded by Lyne Wilson, Assistant Vice President, Talent Management at NAV CANADA along with Kincade, who is also the founder of Elevate Aviation, to help inspire interest and create better understanding of what air navigation service providers do. Serving as Camp Director and Camp Assistant Director respectively, Wilson and Kincade recruited a team of leading industry experts to provide the campers with an unparalleled insight into various aviation-related career possibilities.

With a proud history of supporting and sponsoring initiatives that encourage young people to consider a career in aviation, this initiative marked NAV CANADA’s first time hosting a camp – and if you ask the campers like Karina Verma, it was a huge success.“I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun,” said Verma. “It’s truly an amazing experience.”

The summer camp is one effort of a larger movement in the rapidly growing science, technology, engineering and math industry – better known as STEM – that aims to motivate young women to consider careers in what has historically been male dominated fields. For NAV CANADA, it’s an initiative that is in line with the Company’s wider diversity and inclusion strategy.

“One of our objectives with this camp is to help broaden our applicant pool by showcasing to students the career possibilities within NAV CANADA, at an age where they are starting to make decisions about education and career paths,” says Wilson.

Anthony MacKay, Assistant Vice-President, Air Traffic Services, and pilot explains the role of NAV CANADA flight inspection aircraft

“For me the interesting part is that you get to see the layers of aviation. We would say ‘there’s the pilot, there’s the person in the tower’ but there’s so many people in between and there’s so many career opportunities. I feel that I can go anywhere,” explained camper Monica Muresan.

To be selected for the camp, candidates applied earlier in the year with a short essay and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. Each application was reviewed by a committee.

Some participants like Helene Trudeau had a pre-existing interest in the aviation sector and could expand her knowledge and familiarity with aviation concepts by meeting industry leaders. Others discovered a new passion and a new understanding of what goes on behind-the-scenes when aircraft are in the skies. For camper Hunter Jamieson, “it gave good exposure to see what you might want to become in the future. I loved it.”

A total of 30 candidates were selected from all parts of Canada to convene at the NAV CENTRE in Cornwall, Ontario, where camp participants had a chance meet likeminded individuals, build leadership skills, solve problems and explore new interests. During the week-long camp, the young women tested NAV CANADA air traffic control simulators; learned about tools and technology that make aviation safer and more efficient; toured NAV CANADA facilities like the Ottawa control tower and the Montreal area control centre; got to step into a flight inspection aircraft; and learned from leaders working in Air Traffic Services, Flight Information Services, Technical Operations, and Engineering.

Campers enjoying views of the Ottawa Airport from the control tower

“I love that you are actually controlling planes, so they have to follow a certain path to arrive at their destination, but you control them while they’re in your field of radar. I found that interesting. It’s a bit like a video game so it’s a bit fun too,” described Florence Demers, after trying out an air traffic control simulator.

While the camp focused on aviation-related experiential learning, camp participants were also invited to explore different Canadian cities including Montreal and Ottawa. By the week’s end the campers prepared for their trips back home, but not before receiving a special video message from astronaut Ricky Arnold, and a visit by NAV CANADA CEO Neil Wilson.

“It is our greatest wish that these young women will take what they learned and leave with a thirst to continue exploring this incredible world of ours that is full of opportunity and wonder,” says Kincade. “We want these young women to believe that anything is possible. If we are privileged enough to help be a tiny part of that spark in these women, we will leave the camp at the end of the week with hearts full of gratitude.”

The girls, all entering grade 10, have returned to school with countless stories and fond memories to share, as well as unique insight into the aviation industry and the potential careers within it, from air traffic controller to flight service specialist, and electronics technologist to system engineer.

With the success of this year’s inaugural camp, Explore Aviation Summer Camp is cleared for take-off in 2019. NAV CANADA will be hosting a camp in July for young women going into Grade 10 and one in August for young men of the same age. Keep an eye on our social media channels next January for details about the camps and registration deadlines.

To see more pictures from the first-ever Explore Aviation Summer Camp, please visit this Facebook album.

One Comment

My daughter Julia Watt was lucky enough to be chosen for this camp. It was a really great camp and she learned so much. She has told me that she wants to look more into a career in this field now. We will see what her future brings but we thank NAV Canada so kuch for the camp and for all the great camp leaders.

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