Will provide skilled workers for nation’s fleet renewal program.
A new West Coast Canadian marine industry trades training center is set to open in mid-January 2013, a timely initiative as the building of the first of seven non-combat vessels under Seaspan's $8 billion umbrella agreement with the federal government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) will begin next year. The Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Center (IMTARC), still under construction, will be a 4,000-sq. ft. facility located next to Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt, home to the Canadian Pacific Naval Fleet [pictured above].
According to newly-appointed Executive Director Alex Rueben, recently retired from the Canadian Forces, IMTARC will have two classrooms with room for 24 students each and a computer lab with 12 student stations. The Center has three operational objectives: (1) provide training and education onsite through partnerships with BC post-secondary institutions such as Camosun College, Royal Roads University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology; (2) broker training and education from other providers across North America, Europe and East Asia, and (3) provide space for other industry organizations to hold their own programs.
The Applied Research section of IMTARC will be involved in researching production processes and technologies, human resources and workforce development, business systems and management, and ship technologies. “The idea is to partner with local, national and international applied research facilities that are already out there,” says Rueben.
Identifying Training Gaps
IMTARC is a product of the popular West Coast Shipbuilding and Repair Forum, which originally sparked the idea. As Doug MacLaren, CEO of the Resource Training Organization, which oversees the management and development of apprenticeship training for BC’s resource sector, says, “We have worked with industry stakeholders since 2007 to identify training gaps through direct industry research and gap analyses. Even without NSPS there was a demand for more management-type training, and NSPS has now added a technical dimension to this demand.”
Apprenticeship training is also getting a much-needed boost with two new apprenticeship Marine Fitter and Shipwright programs. And that bodes well for Seaspan’s Victoria Shipyards, whose role in the NSPS agreement is to provide the final stages of outfitting and commissioning for the vessels that Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards will be building.
Victoria Shipyards is reveling in its largest workforce to date with five naval ships in for repair/refit at present. “At the beginning of the year we had approximately 1,000 workers with HMCS Protecteur also going through a major refit,” reports Malcolm Barker, Vice President & General Manager. “She will leave in December, so we expect to reduce that number by 250, which will be consistent for the next five years based on existing contracts. As our Vancouver division continues ramping up, by 2015-2016 we expect the Vancouver workforce to expand to approximately 1,000 tradespeople working on the new NSPS contracts.”
BC Ferries, which spends on average $40-$50 million annually on ship repairs and maintenance, is pleased to be partnering with IMTARC. “We're working together to develop strategies to further train and enhance our workforce and the industry workforce, for instance, to take electricians and welders and give them more specific training around the marine aspect of their trade,” says Mark Wilson, Vice President of Engineering, who is also the recently-elected Chair of the new BC Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Board, which met for the first time last month.
Securing the Future
The NSPS is predicted to create 4,000 direct and indirect jobs for the province. With an estimated 17 to 24 additional vessels for Seaspan to build over the next 30 years, many marine tradespeople and middle managers will finally enjoy lengthy careers, something that hasn’t been seen in the West Coast shipbuilding industry since the middle of the last century.
Rueben says he’s looking forward to working with the Helmets to Hardhats program, which brings military personnel into the private sector in the construction industry, to pilot a similar initiative for the shipbuilding and ship repair sectors in BC. And he is looking to create and facilitate opportunities for Canadians of Aboriginal descent and new immigrants to Canada with the goal of helping procure long-term jobs for them as well. – MarEx
Kathy Smith writes from Victoria, British Columbia.