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L3Harris Empowers Future Canadian Leaders Through the CILA Program

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Corporate Headquarters
May 29, 2024 | 3 MINUTE Read

Successful Launch of CILA

Foster recognized the importance of turning this into a broader industry initiative and enlisted CAE and Thales to join L3Harris as the founding companies of the CILA program, which successfully launched in 2019. This collaborative effort not only aimed to address the diversity gap, but also to serve as a strategic way to acquire Industrial Technological Benefit credits with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

“If we want to promote diversity in the Boardroom, we need to start at the beginning of a person’s journey and mentor them appropriately,” said Rich Foster.

CILA recipients and participating company representatives meet with Minister, Innovation, Science & Economic Development at CANSEC 2023

CILA recipients and participating company representatives meet the Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne 


Through this alignment, CILA not only aimed at promoting diversity, innovation and leadership within Canada’s defence industry, but also focused on contributing to broader government initiatives by supporting these goals.

"By investing in the next generation of STEM talent, CILA is helping Canada to cement its position as a leader in innovation and inclusion, and is promoting a more diverse and educated workforce," commented the Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, who met with CILA recipients at CANSEC 2023. "That’s why it is amazing to witness the success of the initiative in continuing to support young Canadian women in their careers within the defence and security sectors."

The Program

CILA is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of Canadian leaders. Each participating company annually acknowledges up to three exceptional and diverse STEM students, offering them fully paid internships and executive mentorship. The students also receive a one-time $6,000 CAD award, and upon program completion, they have the potential for full-time employment. 

2022 L3Harris recipients left to right: Merriem Iddir, Cybersecurity Co-Op (St. Laurent, QC); Kristina Wilson, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Waterdown, ON); Sana Zafar, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Waterdown, ON); Barb Tsolakos, Mechanical Engineering Co-Op (Mirabel, QC).

2022 L3Harris recipients left to right: Merriem Iddir, Cybersecurity Co-Op (St. Laurent, QC); Kristina Wilson, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Waterdown, ON); Sana Zafar, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Waterdown, ON); Barb Tsolakos, Mechanical Engineering Co-Op (Mirabel, QC).


“Participating in the CILA program was a transformative experience for me as it deepened my passion for my field and gave me a profound sense of pride, ultimately leading me to a permanent position within L3Harris,” relayed Meriem Iddir, Quality Assurance Specialist at L3Harris and CILA award recipient.

CILA goes beyond traditional internship programs by fostering collaboration, providing hands-on experience in cutting-edge projects, and benefiting from exclusive mentorship and networking opportunities with senior industry executives. 

“The program offers a unique approach to our selected interns," added Foster. "Each year, CILA recipients present their respective projects to executives at our collaborative cross-company events. It is great to witness the confidence and promise these future leaders gain through this program. Annual cross-company collaborative events further enrich the experience, providing a platform for recipients to share experiences, solve problems and explore leadership opportunities."

The Mission Continues

As CILA gained momentum, more industry leaders recognized the value of its mission. In 2022, Babcock Canada joined the program, followed by General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada (GDMS-C) in 2024. This brought the total to five supporting companies, marking significant milestones for CILA and underscoring its growing influence and reach within Canada’s defence sector. Babcock and GDMS-C’s commitment to the program enables more opportunities for female STEM students and amplifies the program’s capacity to foster diversity, innovation and leadership.

Since its launch, CILA has had a significant impact. It has awarded internships to 23 recipients from nine Canadian universities across five provinces and has invested over $1 million CAD in awards, internships and company mentorships. As the program continues to grow, it remains committed to fostering industry investment in future leaders while simultaneously promoting a more diverse and inclusive workforce within the aerospace, maritime, defence and security industries.

2023 Cross-Company Collaborative Event at CAE, Montreal, QC left to right: Magy Gerges, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Thales); Emma Piers, Software Engineering Co-Op (CAE); Mégane Riopelle, Systems Engineering Co-Op (Thales); Merriem Iddir, Cybersecurity Co-Op (L3Harris); Vaishnavi Kotha, Software Engineering Co-Op (L3Harris)

2023 Cross-Company Collaborative Event at CAE, Montreal, QC left to right: Magy Gerges, Electrical Engineering Co-Op (Thales); Emma Piers, Software Engineering Co-Op (CAE); Mégane Riopelle, Systems Engineering Co-Op (Thales); Merriem Iddir, Cybersecurity Co-Op (L3Harris); Vaishnavi Kotha, Software Engineering Co-Op (L3Harris)

“As proud participants in the CILA program, L3Harris reaffirms its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as we continue to champion the development of future leaders and foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce,” stated Foster. "It’s an honour for L3Harris to be part of this remarkable and inspiring initiative for young women in STEM. It’s a vision come true." 

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