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Irving Shipbuilding’s Partnership with Women Unlimited Provides Community College Funding and Job Opportunities at Halifax Shipyard

 HALIFAX, NS:   Irving Shipbuilding in partnership with Women Unlimited will provide education funding and job opportunities to 20 women who will participate in the welding and metal fabrication programs at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Akerley Campus.

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The partnership is an outcome of Irving Shipbuilding’s Centre of Excellence funding announced in October 2012.  The mandate of the Centre of Excellence is to provide Nova Scotians, with particular focus on under-represented Nova Scotians, with applicable programs and training to optimize opportunities to work in the marine industry.

Left to right:  Doreen Parsons, Women Unlimited;  Don Bureaux,  NSCC;  Kevin McCoy, Irving Shipbuilding; Minister Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education; Koren Beaman, Unifor, Local 1 Union Executive


The Centre of Excellence has representation from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education; Department of Education; the Women, People with Disabilities, Aboriginal, and African Nova Scotian Communities; Unifor; Irving Shipbuilding; and NSCC, who have all endorsed this first initiative.  Priorities for the Centre of Excellence are focused on academic readiness, post-secondary program access, and workplace readiness.

Details of the Women Unlimited initiative with Irving Shipbuilding:

  • 20 applicants will be provided 50% tuition funding over the course of four semesters (two years) from Irving Shipbuilding to complete the welding and fabrication program at NSCC.
  • Prior to starting the NSCC program, the successful applicants will complete a 14-week pre-academic career readiness program with Women Unlimited.
  • The Women Unlimited readiness program starts in March 2015 at NSCC Akerley campus.  The welding and fabrication program starts in September 2015.
  • Women Unlimited are now recruiting for qualified candidates.
  • Successful graduates who meet employment eligibility criteria will be employed by Irving Shipbuilding at the end of the two-year diploma program as positions become available in 2017 and beyond. 
  • Women Unlimited is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education (Skills & Learning Branch).

“We value the partnership with NSCC and Women Unlimited as we work to grow opportunities from the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy,” said Kevin McCoy, President of Irving Shipbuilding.  “This partnership brings together skill building and workforce diversity.  As ships start in September, a new generation of Nova Scotian shipbuilders will start their education.  It is a win-win-win-win for the students, our great partners at NSCC and Women Unlimited, Irving Shipbuilding, and the province.  We look forward to further announcements to provide opportunities to under-represented groups as part of our Centre of Excellence partnership with NSCC.”

“We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate this innovative, collaborative, Nova Scotian-grown partnership,” says Doreen Parsons, Manager of the Women Unlimited Association.  “It draws together Irving Shipbuilding Inc., the Nova Scotia Community College, Government, unions, and Women Unlimited to focus on creating pathways for diverse women to enter the shipbuilding industry.  This is a win-win proposition.  A more diverse workforce is a stronger workforce.”

“The skilled trades are in demand in Nova Scotia,” said Kelly Regan, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. “I’m so pleased Irving’s partnership with Women Unlimited means more women will get the training they need to work in these rewarding careers.”

 “This initiative will help open doors to this important national shipbuilding project and the opportunities associated with it,” said Don Bureaux, President of the Nova Scotia Community College.  “Each partner in this program is committed to helping Nova Scotia change the makeup of our workforce and ensure all hands are on deck to support this and other emerging economic opportunities in our province.”

Unifor has been very supportive of the Centre of Excellence mandate to increase workforce diversity at the shipyard.

“Unifor is proud to promote women in the skilled trades, and to be a part of Irving Shipbuilding’s Centre of Excellence Women Unlimited Pilot project,” said Rick Rose, National Representative, Unifor. “We recognize that to increase women’s participation in the trades we need innovative approaches and real commitments that include having industry, union, Government, education, and community working together in partnership. We look forward to working to build a more diverse shipbuilding workforce.”

“I would like to commend Irving Shipyards and Women Unlimited on this partnership which will help 20 women embark on a new career and be a part of building Canada’s next generation of ships for the Royal Canadian Navy.  Initiatives like this one demonstrate that our Government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is creating jobs right here in Canada, while laying the foundation for future economic growth,” said Minister Dianne Finley, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

The Centre of Excellence at NSCC is recognized as an Industrial Regional Benefit (IRB) by Industry Canada.

About Women Unlimited

Women Unlimited is a well-established and respected program.  Since 2006, more than 500 women from diverse backgrounds have completed the Women Unlimited program.

About Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Irving Shipbuilding Inc. is part of the J.D. Irving, Limited Group of companies and is in the business of building quality ships and repairing vessels. The company’s primary site is Halifax Shipyard, with four other locations in the Maritime Provinces.  Irving Shipbuilding was selected in 2011 as Canada’s Combatant Shipbuilder under the merit-based National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and is in the early stages of a 30-year military shipbuilding program. It is currently working on a number of significant projects for the Department of National Defence and recently successfully completed a nine-vessel program for the Canadian Coast Guard.  Learn more at