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Meet our Sponsor: Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence

Established only a few years ago, the Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence (CoE) is making big waves throughout Nova Scotia.

In 2011, Irving Shipbuilding was selected by the Government of Canada’s merit-based National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) to work closely with Canada’s Navy on the next class of Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) and Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS). This 30-year shipbuilding program is already providing significant economic and employment opportunities from coast to coast to coast.

The CoE is one of many NSS initiatives Irving Shipbuilding is undertaking to build a sustainable, vibrant marine industry in Canada.

Already, it has provided several scholarships to students wishing to study marine-related trades; it has partnered with multiple organizations to provide tuition assistance and job opportunities to Nova Scotians taking metal fabrication and welding; and two years ago, joined Techsploration’s team of sponsors.

The CoE is a partnership between Irving Shipbuilding Inc. and Nova Scotia Community College that focuses on increasing diversity in Irving Shipbuilding’s workforce and the marine sector; specifically, First Nations, African Canadians, persons with disabilities, and women, by providing support to underrepresented communities.

“There is an obvious alignment between the work and goals of Techsploration and that of the Centre of Excellence.  Both are seeking to create opportunities, pathways and networks for women into STEM-related careers,” says Odette Merchant, Project Manager at NSCC.

“By bringing our resources together, we can grow existing opportunities and create new ones.”

Since becoming a sponsor, the CoE has generously offered to sponsor five Techsploration school teams each year.

“We were ecstatic when the Centre of Excellence decided to join our team,” says Arylene Reycraft, Program and Fund Development Manager at Techsploration. “No student or their school pays to participate in the Techsploration program. This is one of the tenets of Techsploration. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Centre of Excellence, close to 40 young women and their teachers were able to participate at no cost to them.”

Additionally, hundreds more students from across the province benefit from meeting the female role models from Irving Shipbuilding Inc. who volunteer to travel to schools and talk to students about their careers in marine trades.

“We want to support young women as they determine their future career paths. By investing in career exploration activities in occupations where women are underrepresented, we are exposing them to a wider and more diverse range of choices,” Merchant explains.

In addition to their sponsorship of Techsploration, the CoE also supports programs that offer education, apprenticeship and employment opportunities upon program completion.

One such partnership is with Women Unlimited, an organization that promotes the participation of women in trades and technology; and this year a new partnership, Pathways to Shipbuilding, was launched with ten industry, government, and Indigenous partners to encourage people from Aboriginal communities to consider careers in marine-related trades.

Through this program, 20 seats at NSCC’s metal fabrication program are available for successful student applicants.

According to the Irving Shipbuilding website, during the two-year program participants will learn and work together, and be mentored and coached by community and industry supporters, including women and Indigenous employees working at the Halifax Shipyard.

According to a 2011 study by Forbes Insights, encouraging workplace diversity isn’t just politically correct, it’s one of the most important factors to economic growth in a global economy. One of their key findings states that, “Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale. Senior executives are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas. When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation.”

Closer to home, the Now or Never (Ivany) report, says that as Nova Scotia builds a more diverse and inclusive society, “business and community leaders increasingly recognize that the economic exclusion of minority and disadvantaged groups is a dysfunction that hurts everyone.” Making workplaces more open for participation by minority and disadvantaged people are critical objectives for economic progress in Nova Scotia, but the “realization of these objectives will require active commitments by business and community leaders as well as government.”

By encouraging women, First Nations, and people from other underrepresented backgrounds to enter marine-related trades, the CoE not only helps students discover pathways to new education and career paths, but also leads the way for other Nova Scotian workplaces as they become more diverse; helping build a healthy, growing economy in Nova Scotia.

Techsploration couldn’t be more pleased to have such a forward-thinking, community-minded organization as the Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence project at Nova Scotia Community College as a sponsor, and we thank them for their commitment and continued support.