Operation TALENT: Quality of Life - Quality of Service

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RCAF aviators are highly trained, with skills that are as valued inside the RCAF as they are outside. The RCAF recognizes it is vital that the effort required to serve is viewed by the member ─and his or her family─ as both reasonable and sustainable, and that the rewards are worth that effort.

In June 2019, programs were launched to ensure the continuing health of the Royal Canadian Air Force and our ability to achieve mission success. These initiatives are vital in the face of an unprecedented level of global competition for the skills of pilots, technicians, highly trained aviation specialists, and support personnel. Recruiting initiatives continue to produce adequate numbers of new untrained personnel to replace normal attrition in most occupations; however this does not address the shortage of personnel experience we are seeing across the RCAF. Through these new initiatives we are working on restoring and retaining levels of personnel experience where we have seen abnormal attrition and thereby ensure we are able to meet our current mandate and properly transfer skills and knowledge to the next generations of aviators.

Under Op EXPERIENCE, and over the next 1-3 years, the CAF will focus specifically on stabilizing and increasing levels of pilot experience.

Under Op TALENT, the RCAF will focus on the quality of life and quality of service of all our personnel and their families and address, in particular, the intake, training, absorption and employment of our members.

The RCAF will stabilize and grow our capacity across all capabilities to ensure continuation of effective delivery of air and space power now, and into the future. This will be achieved by implementing numerous initiatives. Some are within the RCAF’s control to lead, while others are not; some will be implemented quickly, but others may take up to five to seven years to put in place. In the meantime, the RCAF continues to listen and is working to make meaningful changes.

Initiative Status
Work/Life Balance Assessment In Progress
Air Operations Support Technician Occupation Completed
Family Connection Program In Progress
Four-Year Initial Flying Tour Completed

Occupation Analysis

In Progress
Continuing Education Officer Training Plan In Progress
Contracted Instructor Pilots In Progress
Public Service Aircrew Classification In Progress
Restricted Release Period (Pilot) Completed
Restricted Release Policy (ACSO, AEC, AESOP, SAR Tech& FE) Not Started
Allied/Industry Partnership - Initial Report In Progress
Reserve Employment: (Annuitant Exceptions and Class C) In Progress
Reduced Individual Readiness Training In Progress
Reduce Basic Training List In Progress
Creation of Air Operations Officer Occupation Completed
Air Operations Officer occupation - Initial Operational Capability (IOC) In Progress
Air Operations Officer Occupation - Full Operational Capability (FOC) Not Started
Facilitated Re-Enrolment for Skilled Applicants In Progress
Facilitated Enrolment of Foreign Applicants In Progress
OUTCAN Training Options In Progress
Expansion of Utility Flights In Progress
Review/Adjust Pilot Positions In Progress
Deferred Degree Program (Pilots) In Progress
Compensation Review In Progress
Compensation Review: Pay restructure for Search and Rescue Technicians and Pilots Completed
Training System Review In Progress
Reimbursement of Civilian Flying Costs Not Started
Fighter Force Maintenance Renewal Program (Contracted 3rd Line) In Progress
PARSIM Modelling Expansion (Pilot Production Absorption Retention Simulation) In Progress
Update/Expand NCM STEP In Progress
Military Spouse Employment Initiative Completed
What is Op TALENT?

Op TALENT is an initiative undertaken by the RCAF to implement a comprehensive set of actions to address Intake, Training, Absorption, and Employment – including quality of life and quality of service – of RCAF personnel in general. It is being launched concurrently with Op EXPERIENCE in order to develop and implement a holistic, RCAF-centric approach to the suite of challenges affecting aviators and their families.

It is necessary to establish an efficient intake, training, absorption and employment process that optimizes an Air and Space team of professionals who are trained and developed through all stages of their career to better serve the CAF.


Operation EXPERIENCE will implement immediate actions to stabilize and rapidly grow levels of pilot experience. The RCAF, in conjunction with CAF senior leadership, will put in place targeted short-term objectives and holistic long-term activities that will stabilize and grow the RCAF pilot experience levels across all training and operational aircraft fleets.

The initiatives address three key issues: retention of pilot experience; expansion of pilot absorption capacity; and augmentation pilot training capacity.

This will serve to increase the timeliness, absorption, and production of New Wing Graduates (NWG) and pilot Operational Training Unit Graduates (OTU), while being postured to rapidly absorb these pilots at the tactical squadrons.

When will these solutions come to fruition?

Will the problem be solved quickly?We are making every effort to implement quick solutions, but some of the long-term holistic changes may take up to five to seven years (2025/26) to see through. Some of the short-term initiatives have already begun, such as creation of the Air Operations Support (AOS) Technician trade.

Why is there so much focus being put on pilots first?

While the RCAF has experienced shortages across several trades, the health and sustainability of the pilot occupation is currently the most challenging and is a top priority for the RCAF, as well as for the CAF. The declining numbers of trained pilots creates a cascading effect that cannot be mitigated only by increasing intake and training throughput. Thus, it is necessary to take action to mitigate the risk to operational readiness and effectiveness. For this reason, the CDS has initiated an operation to support the RCAF by prioritizing resources across the CAF which will enable the RCAF to stabilize, then grow pilot experience levels.

What employment factors will you be addressing with these operations?

Employment can be defined by three main elements, each impacting the working environment as well as a member’s health and wellness (often referred to as retention factors):

  1. Quality of life. Includes impact on spouse/children, geographic instability, and work/life balance;
  2. Quality of service. Ranges from degree of job satisfaction to meaningful, challenging work and non-trade related workload. It also includes the wide variety of general service requirements such as second language training, education requirements, career management, leadership expectations, burnout and recognition; and
  3. Quality of compensation and benefits. This includes all types of monetary remuneration, for example: specialist pay, allowances, and pensions.
What initiatives are being developed under Op TALENT to address quality of life and quality of service?
  1. Work-life Balance – Empower leaders down to the unit level to improve work-life balance within their respective units under their command.
  2. Minimize gaps in training pipeline – Optimize the path for RCAF members to become fully trained for all RCAF-managed occupations to minimize unproductive time in the training system.
  3. Review restricted release – Review current restricted release policy for air occupations, beginning with pilots, to determine the appropriate period of service.
  4. Family Sponsor Program – Complete the implementation of the Family Sponsor Program by APS19. The main goal of the program is to build community and improve communications at the Wing and unit level. It’s designed to ease the stress of relocation and service-related separation by connecting families to each other and to local leadership.
  5. Air Operations Support Technician – Finalize implementation of the Air Operations Support Technician trade that will concentrate on providing functional maintenance, Force Protection, and Search and Rescue support so highly qualified personnel focus on their primary functions.
  6. Air Operations Officer – Implement the new Air Operations Officer occupation that will concentrate on non-flying activities to reduce the number of aircrew filling non-flying positions.
  7. Recruiting and Attractions – Support recruitment activities and build on RCAF engagements and attractions.
  8. Flexible Reserve employment – Continue to reduce the administration and increase flexibility to shift resources across Wings to enable easier access to reserve employment. Enable greater access to Class C for Reserve Force members employed on domestic operations.
  9. Review training and professional development requirements – Review and adjust the balance between training and professional development with other professional and personal demands on RCAF members.
  10. Adaptive training – Adapt the training system to better recognize existing skills and qualifications for RCAF-managed occupations to create more flexibility in achieving operational effectiveness.
  11. Modernize compensation and benefits – In coordination with Military Personnel Command, explore a modern compensation and benefit model based on skill sets vice only rank progression across RCAF occupations.
How have leaders at the unit level been empowered to improve work-life balance?

The program is not explicit in outlining what the individual / subordinate commanders should undertake to manage work-life balance, as many initiatives could be unique to the unit itself. The approach could include the managed use of the current leave process, limiting or managing shifts, and limiting the amount of time away from the home on operations. Ultimately, we expect subordinate command teams to keep work/life balance as a central element in their decision-making, and will enable the means for them to do so by supporting and sharing successful bottom-up initiatives. We certainly appreciate how busy the RCAF is today.

Many of these initiatives seem oriented toward officers. What’s in store for NCMs with regards to their quality of life, quality of service?

The initiatives we are pursuing are designed to address the entire RCAF Team. To begin with, we are encouraging command teams to find and implement initiatives to keep work-life balance as a core element of the decision-making process. There are also a host of initiatives tied to new occupations and trades that will result in seeing more aircrew in aircraft, and keep our great technicians on the line.

We are excited about the full roll-out of the RCAF Family Support Program across our Wings as we know this will make moving much easier for our families. This initiative will complement specific family-focused efforts underway by Military Personnel Command.

Work/Life Balance Assessment

RCAF leaders ─ particularly those at the tactical level ─ are urged to consider how they plan and conduct routine operations, and how they can be accomplished while protecting a healthy work-life balance for their people. A more balanced routine tempo will lessen the impact of higher operational tempo as the need arises. Examples can include: alternate work arrangements, including flexible working hours, limiting or managing shifts, and offering the option to work remotely, should be considered whenever practicable. The RCAF is already seeing this philosophy taking root at various levels within our organization.

Four-Year Initial Flying Tour

The RCAF seeks to maximize the implementation of four-year initial flying tours at the line squadrons so that pilots can develop the required expertise to support operations and mentor more recently qualified pilots. To ensure these members are afforded sufficient time to gain and pass on that experience, first tours will be protected at a minimum of four years. Continued implementation will require ongoing coordination between the RCAF and Military Personnel Command (MPC) career managers.

Occupation Analysis for Pilot and Air Combat Systems Officer (ACSO)

A review of the pilot and ACSO occupations is currently underway with results expected in Spring 2021. An analysis of each occupation will update the respective Occupation Specifications by identifying current job requirements, employment conditions, job conditions, and occupational sustainability in the context of future job functions and requirements. The result is an updated Military Employment Structure Implementation Plan (MESIP) which is the basis to update all documentation and process governing each trade.

Contracted Instructor Pilots

The RCAF will hire a cohort of contracted Instructor Pilots (initially seven at 2 CFFTS in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and two at 419 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta) for basic flying training to free up RCAF personnel so they can return to line and operational training squadrons. The goal for this is Summer 2020.

Public Service Aircrew Classification

Working with the Public Service and the Associate Minister of Human Resources (Civilian), the CAF will explore the creation of Public Service instructor positions. This will free up RCAF pilots from instructor positions so that they can return to/remain in flying positions at the tactical units.

Restricted Release Period Policy Review (for ACSO, AEC, AESOP, SAR Tech & FE)

The RCAF will review the current policy regarding restricted release periods for air operations occupations, including Air Combat Systems Officer (ACSO), Aerospace Control Officer (AEC), Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator (AES Op), Search and Rescue Technician (SAR Tech) and Flight Engineer (FE), to determine whether the periods are appropriate for the training effort expended.

Allied/Industry Partnership - Initial Report

The CAF will seek partnerships with Allies and within aviation industries to help retain, attract, and grow experience within the RCAF. While the pilot occupation has been the primary focus for this initiative, the maintainer occupation is also under consideration.

Reserve Employment: (Annuitant Exceptions and Class C)

The aim of this initiative is to provide greater flexibility for Reserve Force employment. Although annuitant exceptions have been granted, the RCAF is seeking to streamline the process and seek delegations where possible to enable ease of management. The RCAF also seeks greater access to Class C full-time service for Reserve Force members employed on domestic operations. This will give these reservists to same benefits and compensation as their Regular Force counterparts while employed under the same conditions and in the same capacities.

Reduce Basic Training List

The RCAF will work to optimize the path to being operationally functional in air occupations by reducing unproductive time in the training system to the absolute minimum required and by finding efficiencies in training. The former will be achieved through a tighter control on recruiting in order to reduce numbers of personnel awaiting basic training to the smallest number required to protect seats on occupation courses. The RCAF’s Training Authority is also revising the sequence of training to find efficiencies while still delivering the highly trained personnel required to support and conduct operations. For example, significant work is currently underway to re-sequence Avionics (AVS) Technician training. By making smart changes to the training pipeline, we hope to not only reduce the amount of time it takes to qualify an AVS Technician to perform maintenance on their first fleet by five months, to a total of 17 months, but also provide better support to their families at the beginning of their RCAF careers.

Facilitated Re-Enrolment for Skilled Applicants

The enrollment process has been streamlined for skilled applicants returning to the RCAF. For example, the Canadian Forces Aptitude Test (CFAT) and the Trait Self Descriptive Test (TSD) are not required to re-enroll. The main steps are:

  1. Application at https://forces.ca/en/apply-now/. An applicant file will be opened and the Air Force Intake and Liaison Team (AFILT) will confirm to the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group Headquarters (CFRG HQ) that the individual meets the criteria as a skilled applicant. CFRG will require original documents such as birth certificate, passport, education credentials and transcripts. The CFRG HQ Skilled Applicant processing NCM will contact the AFILT, who will then contact the applicant to discuss posting preferences. The AFILT will then consult with the respective occupation’s Career Manager to determine the posting location.
  2. Health Questionnaire. The local Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre (CFRC) will complete/update the applicant’s medical file. A full medical exam will be required only if a significant change in health status since release and/or the skilled applicant has been out of the CAF for 5 years or more.
  3. Interview with the Military Career Counselor. This interview can be conducted over the phone, after which the selection process will commence. The length of this process will depend on how long the applicant has been out of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). If that time is longer than five years (as determined from the official release date to the date of application for re-enrolment), and before any further processing is carried out, the file will be sent to the Occupation Advisor (OA) for a determination on skilled status. Once the individual is confirmed as a skilled applicant by the OA, the processing of the file and subsequent re-enrollment will proceed.
Facilitated Enrolment of Foreign Applicants

The RCAF is encouraging the enrolment of skilled and foreign applicants (from Allied forces) into air occupations by streamlining the process and prioritizing their applications.

OUTCAN Training Options

The RCAF is working with key allied air forces regarding the training of RCAF pilots outside of Canada. This will help to optimize our pilot production, increase production in required areas and mitigate training gaps as the RCAF undergoes a training system transition over the next four to eight years.

Expansion of Utility Flights

This activity is designed to augment the specific fleets with Yearly Flying Rates (YFR) from a Multi-Engine Utility Flight (MEUF) type aircraft. A prime intent/desired outcome is to maintain flying currency while posted to non-flying positions and season newly winged graduates who have completed basic pilot training and are awaiting operational training. Forecasted results are: more pilot multi-engine currency without stagnation or competition for postings to a line squadron; pilot job satisfaction vis-à-vis more YFR; retention and honing of pilot experience; healthier pilot trained effective strength (TES) available for tasks/operations while they are waiting for platform-specific training.

Review/Adjust Pilot Positions

The RCAF is in the process of rebalancing the ratio of flying to staff positions within the Pilot occupation in order to ensure that it returns to a sustainable state. This is being executed as part of the stand-up of the Air Operations Officer occupation as well is a focal point of the Occupation Analysis.

Deferred Degree Program for Pilots

The RCAF will explore options for deferring the completion of degree programs for pilots. This will enable them to continue to build their operational experience without interruption due to education demands. Ultimately, this will provide both the individual and the unit with better flexibility, while enhancing work-life balance.

Compensation Review

The RCAF is working with Military Personnel Command to review the types of compensation available, and is recommending the following new measures:

  • A pay structure across RCAF occupations that is based on skill sets, rather than just on rank progression; and
  • Compensation for skilled pilot applicants who re-enroll, or skilled allied pilots who seek to enroll, including move benefits.
Training System Review

The RCAF will adapt its training system to better recognize existing skills and qualifications in RCAF-managed occupations to create more flexibility in achieving operational effectiveness.

Reimbursement of Civilian Flying Costs

Together with Military Personnel Command (MPC), the RCAF will investigate the potential requirement, including eligibility criteria, for pilots employed in non-flying positions to seek reimbursement of civilian flying costs incurred in order to maintain currency in flying skills.

Fighter Force Maintenance Renewal Program (Contracted 3rd Line)

The Fighter Force Maintenance Renewal Program is in its second year, and the RCAF is forecasting an additional 20 contracted technicians will be added into line units (from 2nd line units) to further enhance our maintenance capacity and experience. A lot of work is going on in this regard to re-build our flight line experience.

PARSIM (Pilot Production Absorption Retention Simulation) Modelling Expansion

The RCAF is expanding its Pilot Production Absorption Retention Simulation (PARSIM) model to update fleets other than fighter. This is a direct result of the ramp-up of the Op EXPERIENCE modeling requirements. The RCAF team is working with counterparts within Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) to build credible models to better understand the pilot production continuum.

Update/Expand Non-Commissioned Member Subsidized Training and Education Plan (NCM STEP)

The program continues to grow to provide expanded access to training options for non-commissioned members and recognize accredited training enrolees have obtained from civilian institutions where programs have been assessed against required occupation training requirements.

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