With the announcement of $8 billion in shipbuilding contracts coming to BC, schools are gearing up to fill the skills gap.
Technical colleges—such as the Burnaby’s British Columbia Institute of Technology and Camosun College in Victoria—are expecting an increased demand for workers in fields as varied as welding, millwrighting, project management and occupational health therapy.
Seaspan Marine’s Vancouver Yard won the smaller of two contracts, with Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Yard taking the right to bid on $25 billion worth of military vessels.
“The government estimates that there will be 4000 spin-off jobs. And that means these people will have to be trained and most likely their going to be trained at places like Camosun, places like BCIT,” said Dave Pinton, media relations manager for BCIT.
“We have apprentices that are training here now. In fact, a couple of them happen to be with Seaspan, and I heard one of them say the other day, ‘I think I can buy a house soon.’ So they’re pretty excited about it and it means there’s going to be opportunities for literally the next 20 to 30 years.”
According to Pinton, all six of BCIT’s schools, including business, transportation and health sciences, will be affected by the shipbuilding contracts. “I think people lose sight of the fact that it’s definitely going to affect a lot of different sectors, probably in ways that we don’t think about yet.”
Tom Roemer, VP strategic development for Camosun College, said that graduates will be impacted heavily given that these 30-year contracts will mean lifetime employment for many students.
Roemer said that Camosun is planning to expand capacity by up to 50 per cent in many of their trade programs, while also looking at tailoring some of their current programs—like the one for industrial electricians—towards a marine setting. He also said business programs, such as supply chain management, will also likely require expansion.
Roemer believes that the shipbuilding jobs will pay wages that are competitive with those doled out in places like Fort McMurray, Alberta or northeastern BC, with many being paid in the six figures after a few years.
Camosun will be meeting in early December with the Department of National Defence to discuss what types of training the college should focus on.
Source: ubyssey, November 7, 2011; Image:bcit