Doug MacLaren only unglued himself from his television set long enough to celebrate last week’s $8-billion win for West Coast shipbuilding.
“I put my hands in the air and I probably hooted and hollered,” recalled MacLaren, chief executive officer of the Resource Training Organization of B.C., which is spearheading the creation of a new industry-led educational centre in Greater Victoria, known as the Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre.
Seaspan Maritime Corporation, which owns shipyards in Esquimalt and North Vancouver, secured the federal government’s contract to build Canadian Coast Guard and non-combat naval vessels.
“There will be thousands of job openings (in B.C.),” MacLaren said.
The good news means there will be an even greater need for the training and research centre, which may be built close to the Esquimalt graving dock.
“Our thought is if the centre is close to where the work is, there’s a lot more flexibility for Seaspan and the employers,” MacLaren said, adding that community colleges would provide the instruction at the centre and at their campuses.
MacLaren said talks will begin with the federal government’s Western Economic Diversification, in the hopes it will match the more than $1 million promised by the B.C. government, Seaspan, B.C. Ferries and the Resource Training Organization for the training centre.
Meanwhile, school programming is also in development
Two requests for proposals were issued within the last two weeks for the development of a foundation training program for new entrants to learn about the shipbuilding sector, and for shipwright and marine fitter training curriculum.
“There’s just a real need for people in those occupations, in particular given the attrition or retirements that the sector’s facing,” MacLaren said. “(The federal contract) acerbates the problem.”
The requests for proposals will close by the end of November and “we’re hoping to award contracts and get folks working in December,” MacLaren said, adding that programs will likely take two to three months to develop.
More training programs will be requested early in the new year. The hope is the centre will be up and running in March or April, coinciding with the launch of pilot programs, MacLaren said.