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Growing Careers in Skilled Trades & Technology with Education, Experience and Employment


J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) is proud to recognize the hundreds of skilled trades men and women who play critical roles in our operations every day.

JDI is partnering with local colleges and universities to create new opportunities.  Keeping and growing the talented next generation here at home with rewarding careers in skilled trades and technology is important to us.  At JDI we have 28 different skilled trades employed across our operations in Canada and US. The 2019-2021 hiring forecast estimates the need for 700 skilled trades.

Learn about our pioneering initiatives which encourages women and men interested in skilled trades and careers in technology!

Skilled Trades Exploration Program for Women (STEPW)   



Nine women of diverse ages and backgrounds recently graduated from the STEPW at the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) Saint John campus. The program is a unique partnership between JDI, New Boots and the Government of New Brunswick and builds on the successful program pioneered by JDI at the Halifax Shipyard in partnership with Women Unlimited.  

Some of these women shared their experiences working in skilled trades across our businesses. 

Danielle McGavney – Field Service Technician, Custom Fabricators and Machinists (CFM).

 Danielle McGavney


"I am excited to be working with JDI, as they are known for their reputation in safety and growth for employees. I love that a skilled trade entitles different opportunities and challenges me to learn something new everyday! I would encourage others to pursue careers in the trades, because they give you useful skills, knowledge and a rewarding career" 

Maggie Gray – Mechanic, Southern NB Woodlands, Sussex Garage.

 Maddie Gray


“New Boots and STEPW contributed to my success in many ways. First and foremost, the program gave me the opportunity to take up the program during the summer and helped me find an apprenticeship! Without them, I wouldn’t have had the same opportunity as I have now. Secondly, the program prepared us to enter the workplace, with tools, networks to connect with others in similar fields and the support whenever we needed! I found studying diesel mechanics super interesting! The more I learned about mechanics and how things worked, the more excited I got into my trade! I made a really good choice!" 

 Taylor Cook


"I will always encourage anyone to pursue a skilled trade because it is so fulfilling. It's working hands on, solving problems, being around awesome people and at the end of the day, going home and feeling proud of what you accomplished. JDI also provides endless opportunities to grow within the company!"

Taylor Cook, Industrial Mechanic Apprentice, CFM.

Pathways to Shipbuilding program 

Pathways to Shipbuilding provides opportunities for students from populations underrepresented in shipbuilding.  Participants are provided with a preparatory course, a two-year trades diploma at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and a job with Irving Shipbuilding upon graduation.

Earlier this year, 16 women recently received their diplomas in welding or metal fabrication as part of the Pathways to Shipbuilding Women Unlimited program. Within weeks of graduating, 13 of the women started work as first year apprentices at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard, while the three remaining graduates joined other organizations, some in the shipbuilding supply chain.

 Shipyard Grads 2


This is the third graduating class in the Pathways to Shipbuilding program and the second with Women Unlimited. The program was formed under the Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence with NSCC, established to develop programs and partnerships to increase the diversity in the shipbuilding industry. The first Pathways to Shipbuilding for African Nova Scotians class is completing their first year of study and scheduled to graduate in 2020.  

Award Winning Education Program for First Nations



The Pathways to Shipbuilding for Indigenous Canadians program received the Program Excellence Gold Award from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). The CICan Awards of Excellence recognize best practices from institutions across the country, as well as individual leadership and achievements. 

The program involved a 14-week preparatory training program focused on personal and academic readiness, a Metal Fabrication Diploma program, mentoring and coaching by community and industry supporters, two work terms at Irving Shipbuilding, and upon graduation an opportunity for full-time employment at Irving’s Halifax Shipyard. 

 Shipbuilding for Indigenous Canadians


Twelve students in the Pathways to Shipbuilding for Indigenous Students program graduated with their diploma in Metal and were offered full-time employment with Halifax Shipyard. 

New Brunswick Teen Apprenticeship Program (NBTAP) 

Since 2013, JDI has proudly participated in The New Brunswick Teen Apprentice Program, an industry-led apprenticeship program for grades 10 and 11 students. This program provides an excellent opportunity for those interested in pursuing a career in skilled trades to benefit from a paid work experience with a mentor. Over their summer work terms, NBTAP Student Apprentices learn practical trades and workplace skills that will help them get a head start. Students are coached and mentored on the job, with real work experience. 

 NBTAP Chipman


Donald Maston, Cody Gilbert, Logan Jeffery, and Tyson Stilwell (L to R), did their apprenticeships at Grand Lake Timber this summer! Cody, Donald, and Tyson trained to become Industrial Mechanics and Logan learned skills to be a Welder.


From Study Work-Terms to Full-Time Skilled-Trade Positions with JDI

Cameron Coutts – Electrical & Instrumentation Tradesperson, Lake Utopia Paper St. George.

 Cameron Coutts


Cameron started with Lake Utopia Paper as an Industrial Control Technology student from NBCC.  After three work terms, he was offered a full-time position two years ago. For Cameron, picking the skilled trades route was an easy career choice. 

"I chose this career path because my grandfather worked at Lake Utopia Paper as an electrician for 36 years. The company holds a special place in my heart and I've always wanted to work for them since I was young."


Kelsey O'Keefe - Call Crew at Irving Paper in Saint John. 

 Kelsey O'Keefe


"I chose this path because I wanted to stay in the Maritimes, where my family is and work with a company that I am able to grow with."


Athena Elisseou – Spare Utility Tradesperson, Lake Utopia Paper St. George.

 Athena Elisseou


From Saint John, Athena graduated this past summer from the Chemical Technology program at NBCC. She was offered a full-time job after completing a work term at Irving Pulp & Paper. 

"I chose a career in this field to ensure I would be able to work in the Maritimes. The best part of my job is the opportunities given to learn new skills, and working with people who have been in the industry for a long time that are willing to teach."


Dawson Borthwick – Electrical & Instrumentation Tradesperson, Lake Utopia Paper St. George.

 Dawson Borthwick


You may remember Dawson as one of our Hired before Graduation spotlights four months ago. He was offered a full-time job before graduating from NBCC.  

"I picked this career path that I'm in because I enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting as well as learning how to make different processes more efficient using automation. Technology is always advancing and therefore I find myself continuously learning something new every day."


The Importance of Technicians at Universal Truck and Trailer 

With locations in Saint John and Dieppe, New Brunswick, Universal Truck and Trailer (UTT)’s most active areas of the business are its Truck and Trailer Shops – in both Dieppe and Saint John, which employ 65 technicians and 18 apprentices! Danny LeBlanc is UTT’s Operations Manager, responsible for overseeing the technician’s work, guiding apprentices and ensuring excellent service for customers. 

Skilled Trades Week - UTT 

Caption: Danny LeBlanc (L), pictured with Truck and Trailer Technician apprentices, Dave Pinder and Monica Bell.

Danny shares his experience working and learning from his team of technicians over his years on the job. 

 “There has never been a bigger need for tradespeople and apprentices, not just in the trucking industry, but in all trades. Our truck and transport service technicians have a variety of backgrounds – some learned primarily in classrooms, others in backyards and one is no better than the other. We’ve built top-notch technicians. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with people with tons of knowledge and experience, who have been willing to help me out. I rely on that knowledge and expertise to help make the best decisions for the company, so we can continue to grow our business.” 

 Skilled Trades Week - UTT2

Caption: Trailer Shop Technician, Darren Matthews, pictured welding in UTT's Dieppe Trailer Shop.

Four graduates from the STEPW program joined UTT.

“With UTT’s participation in the STEPW Program, we’ve seen a much-appreciated increase in female technicians and apprentices in the business. We need to keep up this growth and promotion. STEPW has been very good for us – All four participants are a great example of how having a good attitude can overcome newness to the field. They have the want and the will to succeed, and they are learning and succeeding in their jobs here.” says Danny.

Danny shares why training and apprenticeship programs are important for skilled trades 

“What we are seeing from these programs is very good. The apprenticeship programs are dedicated to helping students succeed; they offer side classes for students who may be struggling at any level, due to language barriers, reading, or any other area. And the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) staff are more than willing to help. We partner with them as much as we can, and supply them with test engines, parts, laptops and any other supplies that may benefit their programming.” 

 Skilled Trades Week - UTT3

Caption: Apprentice, Dave Pinder learns from Mentor, Bernie Richard, whom has 43 years experience in UTT's Dieppe Truck Shop.

Skills Canada National Competition


JDI and the Halifax Shipyard were proud to support the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) held in Halifax, Nova Scotia this year. The goal and objective of the SCNC is to engage and promote all of the exciting careers that are available to Canadians in the skilled trades and technologies. It is the only national multi-trade and technology event of its kind for students and apprentices in the country.

This year’s event was a four-day fierce competition with over 550 students and apprentices of various ages from across the country competing for the title of national champion in 44 skilled trades and technologies at the Halifax Exhibition Centre.

Place aux Compétences (PAC)

Kent Homes, located in Bouctouche, NB, is a proud partner of a community-focused mentorship program called Place aux Compétences (PAC). Now in its eighth year, the program has a high success rate - giving local high school students an opportunity to learn valuable in-class training and on-the-job skills in various construction and carpentry trades, as well as grow self-esteem and confidence.

“J.D. Irving, Limited has been an active participant in the Place aux Compétences’ youth training program through its Kent Homes division in Bouctouche. Students gain valuable work experience, a renewed sense of confidence and appreciation for the hard work and dedication needed to serve customers in a competitive marketplace.” says Suzanne Gagnon, Director, New Brunswick French International Student Program at Place aux Compétences.  

This year, 9 students did an 8-week work term and 4 of them were hired full time. In addition, 6 summer students were trained and hired through the program this year.



Since 2012, around 50 students have had the opportunity to build their skills and learn from committed mentors.


Our Sawmills depend on Skilled Tradespeople 

Bob Reade – Millwright, Sproule Lumber in Valley NS. 

 Bob Reade


Bob has been in skilled trades for 40 years and graduated from a trades school in Cape Bretton in 1985. 

“I would tell a new grad to try and expand their skills to learn new trades, to be open to all opportunities. When you do a job – slow down and be safe. Above all, enjoy what you do.”

 Kenny Dube – Electrician, Grand River Pellets in St. Leonard.

 Kenny Dube


 “I went to community college in Edmundston (CCNB) and have been an electrician for 5 years. The thing I like most about my trade is finding out a solution to an electrical problem in any aspect of the trade. I like learning new stuff about my trade because it pushes me to be best that I can be. Being an electrician is an excellent trade to get into because it is never boring, and you are always learning new things.”


This would not be possible without the support from our employees, who volunteer, train and mentor the next generation of skilled people across our businesses, providing expert guidance keeping safety the top priority. 


Happy Skilled Trades and Technology Week!