Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon. Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today.
My name is Jeff Morrison. I'm the president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, or NACC. NACC represents Canada's largest passenger air carriers, including Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet. The mandate of our association is to promote safe, sustainable and competitive air travel by advocating for the development of policies, regulations and legislation to foster a world-class transportation system.
This study that the committee is doing on anticipated labour shortages couldn't come at a more opportune moment. Canada's airlines and their workers have felt the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic acutely. This sector was among the first to be hit and the last to recover. A large number of workers left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, either voluntarily being furloughed or offered early retirement.
If there's one thing I would stress that you take away from my remarks today, it is that there is no question that Canada's airlines are powered by the skills and talent of the people who work in this sector. Our success depends on them. Despite the many challenges that airlines and airlines staff have had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic period, I am pleased to state that our member airlines have been successful in returning their staffing capacity to 2019 levels. But we need to think about the future. The aviation ecosystem is reliant on the availability of a large, well-trained, competent workforce, and it must include professionals in adequate numbers to cater to the diverse roles found across the aviation sector and ecosystem. As legislators, you know that labour shortages aren't just buzzwords you read about on social media or hear about in the news. They impact the opportunity for sustainability and growth.
As you just heard from Robert, my colleague from the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace, their labour market information study forecasts a need to hire more than 58,000 workers by 2028 to meet industry attrition and growth. Just as a bit of perspective, that total is roughly 43% of the current aviation workforce.
The air transport sector, in collaboration with aviation stakeholders and the Government of Canada, must succeed for Canadians and the aviation industry as we look to the future.
The sector relies on the Government of Canada to process the credentials of airline workers and other aviation personnel. This includes medical certificates, security clearances, restricted area identity cards and other identifying information.
As travel demand has increased, so have the demands for accreditation, and we must ensure that Transport Canada maintains adequate resources. Eliminating the backlog and ensuring that accreditation keeps pace with travellers' needs are immediate steps the Government of Canada can take.
For newcomers to Canada who want to work in aviation, we often see barriers to expediting the recognition of foreign credentials, as my colleague Robert also mentioned, and this is another area that we are bringing to the attention of the government.
We also believe the Government of Canada can do more to promote airlines as a positive career choice, similar to the effort it has made to encourage students or new Canadians to pursue careers in the skilled trades. In fact, by coincidence, earlier today the U.K.'s Department for Transport unveiled a new program called Generation Aviation, which aims to boost recruitment into the U.K. aviation sector. The Canadian government could look at this new program as a model.
Lastly, there is a need to use technology to further digitize services and requirements that will help enhance the travel experience, whether that be in airport operations, for instance, or customs screening. As another example, biometrics could play a role in addressing labour shortages.
It's critical that the Canadian airline industry remain globally competitive now and for decades to come, and that travellers have confidence that their journey is predictable, timely and enjoyable, with clear service standards across the air travel ecosystem. This means ensuring that the airline sector continues to attract and retain skilled workers now and into the future.
Mr. Chair, I too look forward to the discussion.
Thank you again.