Wall of text warning! To skip past the back story leading to my decision to apply as an AVS Tech (Avionics Systems Tech), go to the next post.
I am a 33 year old male who is living in Japan with a wife and two children. I have lived in Japan for about 8 years now but I am Canadian born and raised. At the time of this writing, I have been in the application process for AVS and Pilot for just over a year. I have completed my CFAT (aptitude test), medical and interview and am now simply awaiting an offer. This is my very long story of how I came to be where I am now.
Ever since I was a young child, I have been fascinated with anything and everything mechanical or electronic. I was already repairing house appliances well before I was 5 years old and building my own computers by my early teens. Of the myriad mechanical devices in this world, one item always was the focus of my admiration, aircraft.
In my early teens, I decided to join air cadets to satiate my desire for aircraft. I enjoyed my time in but I was not a responsible mature adult in my teen years so while I did very well during the studies portion of air cadets, basic and later aviation, I was not very motivated to do drill or PT (I did do it, but not with the enthusiasm I should have had). I was a little too laid back.
Out of high school, I began university and took some computer programming courses, but quickly discovered that while I like the mechanical and electronic aspects of computers, I had little interest in programming in a chair all day. I wanted to work with my hands more, and spend far less time at a desk. During my first year of university I took a test for employment as an over the phone internet and browser repair technician and dropped out of university as soon as I became employed.
I enjoyed my work at first but after the company was taken over and management changed, the nature of my work changed drastically. At that time, I was doing research, development and training of new troubleshooting methods but the new management decided to use us as data entry in our downtime. They also cut out all our benefits and treated us very poorly. Within a year of the management change, 3/4 of their technicians had quit and moved to a competitor to essentially do the same work they were doing before the management change but for more money and less stress. The company branch I worked for went out of business shortly after. I decided that I wanted to finally pursue post-secondary education despite an offer to work for the better company most of my colleagues had went off to.
Now 24 years old, a more mature adult, I looked back at my time in air cadets and realized it was one of my most enjoyable activities as a teen. I also now had a greater pride in being a Canadian and a desire to pursue a career that was almost guaranteed to be dynamic regardless of trade choice so I decided to go to the CAF recruiting center in Winnipeg and applied to be a Pilot through the ROTP program.
My time with the recruiter was not great. I asked to apply for ROTP Pilot but he was very adamant that I apply as a signals officer (it may not have been called that at the time) in the army given my extensive technical background. They also (for some reason) had access to my range scores from back when I was in air cadets and said that someone with my shooting skills should try for the army (I had won some range competitions during my cadet years). I did enjoy range, but I was not interested in joining the army. The recruiter said he would call me for future processing for pilot but still pushed for army.
Disappointed, I left the recruiting office and instead decided to pursue education at a civilian university. My high school marks were good enough to get into most university programs, but not good enough to get into some of the more competitive programs at larger universities like the University of British Columbia or the University of Toronto. I went back to school for a few months, upgraded my lowest high school marks to the upper 90's and applied to a few universities. Shortly after, I was accepted to all the universities I applied to and chose to go to the University of British Columbia to pursue an Asian Area Studies degree focusing on immigration and emigration in order to hopefully someday become a immigration officer (I still wanted to work FOR Canada, if not in the military, as a civilian).
Some time after my acceptance into UBC, I got a call from the recruitment center in Winnipeg to go in for further processing for Pilot ROTP. This was almost a year after my initial trip to the recruitment center and I turned the offer down considering I was already packed and ready to move to BC. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different had I accepted that offer. I do not regret not accepting as my choices would eventually lead me to meeting my wife in Japan (something I would not give up for the world), but in retrospect, I do now realize just how spectacular of a program ROTP is for those interested in military life.
After 4 years in University, extensive experience working with immigration and visa issues part time, and learning a ridiculously difficult language (Japanese), I finally graduated with a BA in Asian Area Studies. I was also given a job offer directly from someone in immigration services because of my volunteer work helping students with immigration and visa issues. The job offer was something very rare for such a high demand job. I was told that they would prefer that I have three languages under my belt before I begin work and that they would like me to continue to work on my Japanese skills in Japan first for a year or two before beginning work.
Given my situation, I got a job working at the board of education of a small town in Japan and continued to practice my Japanese in a professional setting. After my first year in Japan, I met my wife to be. I also had started a side business that was doing extremely well helping expatriates and exchange students with remittance issues. Given that I was in a good relationship and was looking forward to a very lucrative business, I decided to stay in Japan and turned down my previous job offer. A few years I got married and went in to have my business registered as a corporation when some very bad news hit. A change in the law made it so that I could not continue to help customers until I first put aside millions of dollars into a securities account (needless to say, I did not have millions of dollars just sitting around). I had to immediately halt my business and was never allowed to continue. Out of work, just married, and just starting a family, I had to take work wherever I could get it. I became a public elementary and junior high school English teacher for a terrible dispatch company.
At first, the work was not so bad. The pay was not great, but it was enough and I did not mind teaching even though it was for my most hated subject, English. The company took about 30% of my pay (permanently) just for introducing me to a school (and I never saw them more than a few hours per year), but I could still get by. In my second year, my infant son had developed a life threatening problem that required immediate surgery. I had to miss two weeks of work while taking care of him in the hospital (not to mention I was not in a good state of mind with my child's life hanging in the balance). One of the schools I went to was very angry that I missed work because of this and demanded that I no longer go to their school as they did not want to risk the chance of me missing more work if my child had to go in for further surgery. Being a dispatch company, the company I work for cared little for me and followed the desires of their client. Since I had done nothing wrong, they did not fire me, but they moved me to a new school an hour and a half away, changed me to a 9 month contract per year (not paid between school years) and cut my pay by about 20%. The next year they increased the commission they were taking from all their employees to between about 50 and 60%. I was now working a job that requires a university degree for less money than the starting wage of a McDonald's employee in Tokyo. To add insult to injury, because of my high teaching performance, they wanted me to start doing some training sessions for other teachers... with no increase in benefits or pay but a significant increase in work load. Many other problems including contract fraud, countless labour law violations (the labour laws are not usually enforced in Japan), 12 hour days with no overtime pay, not allowed to use holidays, 3 hour travel time (unpaid) and the financial strain of all the pay decreases made me come to the conclusion that my career plan needed a change.
My wife suggested that I open my own English school, but I did not really want to commit to a career of doing something I do not really enjoy. I decided to look up what jobs are currently most in demand in Canada to see if any of them were of any interest to me. Avionics was on the list and was a field that piqued my interest of both aircraft and electronics. While looking up schools that teach avionics, I came across a forum post about Avionics Systems Technicians (AVS) in the CAF. Recalling that I had always wanted to be in the CAF, in September of 2013, I began my application for AVS.