Celebrating the Women of Halifax Shipyard

Women have been major contributors to our success as Canada’s chosen shipbuilding and in-service support Centre of Excellent since the first female recruits entered trades at Halifax Shipyard in 1943.

During World War II, a shortage of labour lead to a group of motivated women completing a special 480-hour welding program at the Nova Scotia Technical College to provide them with the training necessary to fill rapidly vacating positions at Halifax Shipyard. Dorothy Lutz (nee Hendsbee), a native of Guysborough, Nova Scotia, was one of these women. After completing the three month War Emergency Training Program with five other female recruits, she became a part of history as one of the first tradeswomen working at Halifax Shipyard. She also made history for another reason, only 16 years-old at the time, Dorothy was the youngest person to ever take the welding course and is still considered one of the youngest women in Canada to ever complete this training.  

Dorothy Lutz

Today, following in the footsteps laid by Dorothy and the other War Emergency Training recruits, Halifax Shipyard remains committed to providing opportunities for women in the workforce. Over the past five years, the number of women working in the shipyard has grown from 85 to 285. Through partnerships with organizations like Women Unlimited, a not-for-profit women’s organization that promotes the full participation of women in trades and technology, the shipyard expects to continue this growth.

Thanks to this partnership, 17 women are currently enrolled the Irving Shipbuilding—Women Unlimited welding and metal fabrication programs at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). Upon completion of the program in June 2017, successful graduates who meet employment eligibility criteria will be hired by Irving Shipbuilding as positions become available. Based on the program’s success it has been renewed to give another 20 women this incredible opportunity.

Women Unlimited

Throughout their education, these women will have the opportunity to participate in work placements at the Halifax Shipyard and work alongside and learn from some of our experienced tradeswomen. Women like Vicki Berg and Amy MacLeod who are working on the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) currently under construction at Halifax Shipyard.

Growing up, Vicki’s dream of becoming a welder was often dismissed as a career not fitting for a female. She pursued her dream anyway and is today an important member of the welding team at the Halifax Shipyard. Actively engaged in the workforce, Vicki works to mentor other young women entering the trade. She works with the Women Unlimited program to provide students with guidance, support and confidence during their work terms and studies. 

Vicki Berg
“I work hard to set an example or my daughter and other women. I believe you can do anything you set your mind to, and being woman should not hold you back from pursuing a career.” Vicki Berg, Welder

Amy saw welding as an opportunity to build a steady, long-term career at home in Nova Scotia. Her path to Halifax Shipyard was not an easy one. As a teenager, she found herself in the care of the Phoenix Youth Program where she discovered ways to reinvent and support herself. Through Amy’s hard work and determination, along with support from organizations like Women Unlimited and Phoenix Youth, Amy earned her GED, upgraded her math skills and completed her diploma in Metal Fabrication at NSCC.

Amy’s commitment was driven by her desire to provide a stable future for her daughter. Since joining the team at Halifax Shipyard as an Ironworker on the AOPS project, Amy’s love of her trade only continues to grow. She hopes to continue to develop her skills at Halifax Shipyard and mentor other young women in the workforce.

Amy MacLeod
“I may not have known about the opportunities for women in shipbuilding – or in the trades at all – if it weren’t for Women Unlimited and Irving Shipbuilding. The work here is challenging, but fun and filled with great co-workers.” Amy MacLeod

In addition to trades, the number of women in other areas of Irving Shipbuilding also continues to grow. Engineers Liane Sandula and Jessica Lockhart are just two examples of the smart, talented women pursuing careers at Irving Shipbuilding.

A Quality Control Engineer, Liane writes procedures to ensure the quality of the ships delivered meets all of the requirements of Canada’s Navy. She also works with the production workforce to make sure they have the necessary resources to meet these procedures.

Naturally drawn to math and science, she studied Mining Engineering and went on to work in the Mining industry. She eventually pursued a Masters in Environmental Management where she was able to develop her written and oral communications skills as a compliment to her engineering background.  In her current role, she enjoys asking questions and finding solutions to help the workforce deliver a top quality product at the end of the day. 

Liane Sandula
“Everybody naturally wants to do a good a job and improve on things. I enjoy working with the team at Halifax Shipyard to help find ways to do that.” Liane Sandula, Quality Control Engineer

A graduate of Acadia and Dalhousie universities, Jessica is an Industrial Engineer working as a change planner on the AOPS project. In her diverse role, she works with the design team to ensure the workforce has enough time budgeted to address any changes made throughout the build process.

Jessica also works on the planning for the loading and installation of big pieces of equipment to make sure the workforce has all of the necessary equipment on hand when it is time to make the move. In addition, she is working to establish standard times and norms for various aspects of the build process to help aide in the planning of future ships. 

Jessica Lockhart
“Every day, I have new problems to solve. I get work with people from upper management to the production floor to help everyone understand both the challenges and solutions to build the best ship.” Jessica Lockhart, Industrial Engineer

We’re proud to modernize the face of shipbuilding in Canada and provide opportunities for all Canadians – both men and women – to play a role in building Canada’s future naval fleet.