Help for students gets off the ground

Dehcho Regional Helicopters creates new scholarships for residents

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 1, 2014

DEH CHO Responding to requests from residents who are part of its member groups, Dehcho Regional Helicopters has created two new aviation-themed scholarships.

The company has started a $30,000 annual fixed-wing pilot scholarship and two annual aviation support services scholarships of $1,500 each. These scholarships are in addition to the existing eight annual aircraft maintenance engineer scholarships worth $3,000 each.

The scholarships came out of the strategic planning sessions that Dehcho Regional Helicopters and its fixed-wing division, Dehcho Airways, held in Nahendeh communities in 2012 and 2013, said John Curran, a consultant with Dehcho Regional Helicopters.

More than 100 residents attended the meetings and filled out surveys. The company created a wish list from those of what people thought it should do.

A focus on scholarships and promoting career options for youth were the top two requests and the scholarships and the related website address that, Curran said. The company’s new website includes information about careers in aviation and the scholarships and a PDF version of the application form. The company’s board wanted to remove barriers and make the scholarships more accessible, Curran said.

The fixed-wing pilot scholarship will be given to a student accepted into the career pilot program offered by the Discovery Aviation Academy. It is a full scholarship and if the student progresses into the second year they will receive the funding for that year as well, Curran said.

“Working as a commercial pilot in the North gives our young people a chance to build stable, long-term careers in the NWT after graduation,” said JoAnne Deneron, the president of Dehcho Regional Helicopters in a press release.

The company has made the scholarship sustainable by funding it with a portion of each ticket on the scheduled Air Tindi flights from Fort Simpson to Yellowknife, Curran said.

The aviation support services scholarship acknowledges that a lot of professions are required to run the aviation industry. Applicants can be in a variety of programs from accounting to human resources to business administration, but must have a stated interest in working in the aviation industry, Curran said.

“Companies like Great Slave and Air Tindi would love nothing more than to have a steady stream of qualified potential employees coming out of the communities they serve,” he said.

Both of the new scholarships are available for students in the six Nahendeh communities whose First Nation and Metis business arms form the company. The communities include Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte, Trout Lake and Jean Marie River.

The aircraft maintenance engineer scholarship, offered since 2004, is the opportunity that Ivor Cli-Norwegian is interested in.

Cli-Norwegian, 16, has been in a work experience placement since September at Great Slave Helicopters Ltd. in Fort Simpson. The Grade 10 student is planning on becoming an aircraft maintenance engineer.

“I’ve always kind of had an interest in aviation,” he said.

Cli-Norwegian said he will likely apply for the scholarship after graduating from Thomas Simpson School.

Sheldon McKay, the Fort Simpson base engineer for Great Slave Helicopters Ltd., wishes he had of known about the scholarship. McKay, 26, knew by Grade 9 or 10 that this was the career he wanted to follow.

Growing up at Checkpoint, McKay said he was surrounded by aviation including a group that worked there every summer with a helicopter and the airplane flights he used to take home for the weekend. A career in aviation and as an aircraft maintenance engineer is great for people who want to explore and see new things, he said.

“It’s definitely not for everyone,” said McKay.

McKay studied at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary and started working with Great Slave in 2006, between his two years of school.

“Any bit of money you can get definitely helps,” he said about the scholarship opportunity.

There are eight aircraft maintenance engineer scholarships offered each year, one for a member of each of the Dehcho Regional Helicopters’ beneficiary groups and one for the region.

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