Flight careers keeping youth close to home: Thunder-Bay-based North Star Air working to keep young people in communities.

Author:McKinley, Karen

There is a concern when Indigenous youth learn a trade they have to leave home to find a job.

One Thunder Bay-based air service is making it much easier for young people to learn skills, stay close to home and even help their communities flourish by providing a critical service.

The long-term plan is to encourage aviation as a career choice way before high school, getting more people into the industry overall.

North Star Air is an equal opportunity employer, encouraging anyone with an interest in aviation to apply. But when it comes to the remote and fly-in communities they partner with and serve, they pay special attention to getting young First Nations to sign up with the incentive they don't have to leave their homes if they don't want to.

"There will always be those who will go other places, move on to other airlines, but we give them the option to stay in the North, live in their home communities, fly their families and friends and give their communities a valuable service," said Karen Matson, community relations officer for North Star Air and coordinator for the outreach program.

The company is invited to many career fairs held in remote communities and schools to show youth how they can have a rewarding career without having to leave home. Matson said she stresses the incentive of having the option to come back. No matter what they do with their career, they can take themselves home.

The outreach team usually consists of Matson, one or two pilots, a ground crew member and sometimes a member of administration, to show the diversity of jobs in aviation.

Often it's the pilots who are the stars.

"The students crowd around them and are in awe of the pilots. They swarm them," she said. "They want to know what it's like to fly."

She says she speaks often with pilots and all of them tell her besides the perks of work-life balance, many of their pilots come from across Canada and during off-time they can go home and spend weeks with their families. Not to mention flying to different parts of the country, and the world, for those who hire on with international companies.

Not only do they not have to leave their loved ones behind, but they are also making their lives better overall with their career choice by connecting their communities together.

North Star Air is taking it one step further. Starting this year it will be offering a bursary or scholarship program. Matson said they have been in talks with Confederation College to work out the...

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