Three west coast Aboriginal employment and training organizations have formed a new training alliance to take advantage of job opportunities created by a $3.3 billion federal shipbuilding contract for seven vessels awarded to Seaspan in 2011 as part of a $35 billion National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. The Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS), the Coast Salish Employment and Training Society (CSETS), and the First Nations Employment Society (FNES) formed the Coastal Aboriginal Shipbuilding Alliance (CASA) to jointly design, develop, and deliver high quality training and employment programs for coastal First Nations youth and young adults seeking skilled trade careers in the burgeoning shipbuilding industry.
“The award of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) to Seaspan creates the need for skilled workers in the marine industry,” says John Webster, president and CEO of ACCESS. “ACCESS is proud to be partnering with FNES and CSETS under the Coastal Aboriginal Shipbuilding Alliance to provide Aboriginal people with the means to gain the skills necessary to be part of this exciting opportunity.” The organizations will work together to ensure Aboriginal people living in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island will be ready to help the industry meet increasing demands for skilled trades to satisfy the federal shipbuilding contracts. “This is a long-term partnership,” said Marlene Rice, CSETS executive director. “We are joining forces to provide funding for training and assist our clients in finding employment in the shipbuilding and marine industries.”
In October, Seaspan was awarded an additional $3.3 billion contract to build another ten non-combat vessels, raising the total order to 17 and further stimulating the west coast’s once troubled shipbuilding industry with another multi-million dollar boost. Federal Public Works Minister Diane Findlay said the additional contract means the boom and bust cycles that have long plagued Canadian shipbuilding “are a thing of the past.” Brian Carter, president of Seaspan Shipyards, stated the announcement marked the “rebirth of the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia.” The additional ten ships (five multitask vessels and five off-shore Coast Guard patrol vessels) must go through a design and approval process.
The national procurement strategy is now in its fourth phase, as designs are being finalized and infrastructure upgrades are nearing completion. Last October, the company broke ground for a $200 million facility upgrade expected to be completed by October 2014 when the first ship (an off-shore fisheries science vessel) will begin construction. At that point, Seaspan will be looking for about 4,000 additional employees.