Shipbuilding (Workforce) 2.0

By: Kevin McCoy, President of Irving Shipbuilding, and Elyse Allan, President & CEO, GE Canada

As we modernize shipbuilding in Canada, we must also strive to modernize our workforce.  The very same culture of innovation that drives using the shipbuilding industry to pursue technological advancements in vessel construction, is driving us to find new ways to open doors for those underrepresented in the shipbuilding workforce.

This is why, together with Nova Scotia Community College, Unifor, community leaders, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the Nova Scotia government and the federal government, Irving Shipbuilding and GE Canada have launched a new program intended to create job opportunities for Indigenous students in shipbuilding. We know that for some students, new jobs can seem overwhelming at the beginning, especially if you’ve left your community behind. So rather than training one apprentice at a time, we’re opening the doors to groups of new faces in the shipyard.

The model for the new program – entitled Pathways to Shipbuilding – originates from an existing one that brought a group of skilled women to the Halifax Shipyards for on-site training in welding and metal fabrication.  With a successful pilot involving a group of women halfway to completion, we are now focused on a cohort of 20 Indigenous students. From recruitment to apprenticeship training to employment, this group will learn together and they will work together.  Along their two-year path, candidates will access a continuum of services and support from strong partners invested in the future success of the Halifax Shipyard and committed to preparing these individuals for long-term employment as members of the Irving Shipbuilding team. 

All partners of Pathways to Shipbuilding will be actively involved in the students’ journey from classroom to job site, from their first day at the college until they are confidently settled in their jobs that the Halifax Shipyard is planning to offer them in 2018, assuming hiring criteria have been satisfied and as jobs become available.

This is what building a modern workforce is all about: anchoring a community to be there at every step of the way. We are there to support the transition from home to apprenticeship to employment, to help with job retention strategies, to provide counsel on job-related stresses such as urban relocation and balancing work and family pressures,  to lock in mentors and to act as career coaches. 

It is a holistic approach. It is a community approach. Our goal is for industries in Canada, beyond shipbuilding, to see this as a proven approach for training and employing all under-represented workers, including our Indigenous population.

In the coming months, this first cohort of 20 Pathways to Shipbuilding students will come together. They will embark on a challenging and rewarding journey.  We look forward to welcoming them to the Halifax Shipyard in 2018.  

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