Shorts of Belfast is a company with an impressive history. Bombardier acquired this company in 1989, adding to its growing base of aerospace expertise. The Belfast operation is impressive. It has 5,000 employees and more than a century of aviation experience. Indeed, Shorts is the largest manufacturer in Northern Ireland generating 10% of the region’s manufacturing exports on its own. Bombardier’s investment in the operation is almost £1.6bn since 1989 and an additional £520m investment is under way to support the CSeries wing production. Shorts is Bombardier‘s center of excellence for fuselages, nacelles, wings, composites and after-market support.
Northern Ireland has a history of social unrest. But Bombardier seems to have bridged that issue in the true Canadian way. The company has managed to develop its people – it has an extensive apprenticeship program. Fully 95% of its employees have formal qualifications, of these 30% university degree level or above and 65% diploma/skilled level or other qualifications. The company has the largest modern apprenticeship program in Ireland and is a big investor in people – £145m invested in training since 1989. The impact of this cannot be understated. Bombardier is doing amazing things in an area that needs skilled jobs. Here’s an example: In Belfast Bombardier invests 2% of profits in community and support employee volunteering. So its not just “feel good”, the company is putting real money into the community and people.
The outcome is that the Shorts plant is able to play an increasingly more important role within Bombardier. For example, take a look at this Lear 85 wing. The ability to develop and build this structure is what enabled the plant to get involved with the CSeries wing. There are a number of lessons learned from the Lear 85 wing that are being deployed in the CSeries wing.