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Ocean Allies Partnership Pushes for Diversity to Boost Innovation and Growth of Canada’s Ocean Sector


HALIFAX, NS [K'jipuktuk]:     During Canadian Innovation Week, May 17-21, partners on the Ocean Allies Initiative are examining the effect of diversity on innovation in Canada’s Ocean industry. A new report “Navigating Change: an examination of the current state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Canada’s ocean sector”, prepared by Upswing Solutions and funded in part by Ocean Allies has determined that the sustainability and future performance of Canada’s ocean sector will depend on attracting a diverse workforce.


“It is widely understood and acknowledged that diverse teams perform better in many ways, including innovation and growth.” – Navigating Change Report, February 2021


Irving Shipbuilding is confirming a 2021 allocation of $100,000 in support of the Ocean Allies project, which is valued at over $420,000.  The project has begun to access, engage and support a diverse ocean economy through targeted strategic initiatives across five industry work packages.


Ocean Allies is a first of its kind initiative bringing together diverse talent to reduce barriers to entry into Canada's ocean innovation ecosystem. The cluster-building project includes funding and leadership from Irving Shipbuilding (ISI) and is spearheaded by Pisces Research Project Management Inc. together with partners Upswing Solutions, Huntsman Marine Science Centre, Assembly of First Nations, BioNB, Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), Nova Scotian Business Inc (NSBI), Ocean Subsea, Synapse, Militacs and Ulnooweg. 

Irving Shipbuilding has begun implementing sector-wide and employer-specific recommendations from the Navigating Change report.


Sector-wide recommendations


Commit financial resources to support DE&I initiatives in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)


Include underrepresented groups at the design stage of ocean sector initiatives


Increase public awareness of ocean-sector careers and amplify work in the sustainable ocean economy


Clearly communicate the importance and benefits of Indigenous participation to the ocean sector


Employer-specific recommendations


Executive DE&I training to address lack of cultural awareness and understanding


Develop policy-driven initiatives to support ocean-sector career development for individuals facing inequity


Develop collaborative partnerships and community relationships


As of September 2020, ISI has increased the representation of women skilled trades employees to 8.5 per cent at its operations; in Nova Scotia, the availability of women with a skilled trade is 2.6 per cent of the total skilled trades population. Professional women representation at ISI is 4.1 per cent higher than the current availability in the labour market.


The Pathways to Shipbuilding Program at ISI was developed with the intent to increase hiring from under-represented groups in the shipbuilding industry by providing skilled trades education and employment opportunities. The program has graduated cohorts of African Canadians, Mi’kmaw and Indigenous people and two cohorts of women. A fifth cohort for Indigenous people is currently underway. The Pathways program won a 2019 Employment Equity Achievement Award from Employment and Social Development Canada.  




Kes Morton, President and CEO of Pisces Research Project Management


“Irving shipbuilding was one of our founding partners on Ocean Allies. Recently they have levelled- up that support…Ocean allies will not only make the workforce more diverse, equitable and inclusive; we’re expecting it to produce much greater innovation in our ocean sector.”       


Kevin Mooney, President, Irving Shipbuilding


“We know that diversity of people and ideas make us better as a team and a business.


As part of our Pathways to Shipbuilding program, our involvement with organizations such as Women Unlimited, Techsploration, East Preston Empowerment Academy, the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, Skills Canada NS, NSCC, Apprentice NS etc. are key to the success of our endeavors.  


We’re making progress – we have more than doubled the number of women in skilled trades at the Halifax Shipyard and are exceeding the most recent national benchmark.  Our first class of African Nova Scotian shipbuilders has graduated, and we look forward to sharing news of our 2nd group of Indigenous students as they begin their training at NSCC.  


We know there is more to be done.  Ocean Allies is a vital part of realizing the potential of our marine sector and Blue economy because it connects diverse partners in achieving the vital ingredient to our shared success – skilled people.” 


Dixia Fan, Ocean Allies Participant


“Increasing diversity and inclusion in the Blue Economy will unlock innovation and drive market growth, as people from diverse cultural backgrounds and communities may provide different innovative insights to the same problem.”


Dr. Ehab Misk, Research Scientist, Huntsman Marine


“We need to understand that diversity and equity are not only a virtue we are hoping to achieve, but it is the element of success as every individual brings a different perspective, a missing piece of the puzzle, that creates a better society and stronger institutions” – Dr. Ehab Misk, Research Scientist, Huntsman Marine


Dr. Jackie Dawson, 2021 recipient of the Governor General’s Innovation Award and Ocean Allies Role Model.


 “If you don’t see yourself represented in the sector you want to work in, look harder, and if you still don’t see yourself represented, become this change and ensure that those coming after you will feel represented and be inspired.”—Dr. Jackie Dawson, 2021 recipient of the Governor General’s Innovation Award and Ocean Allies Role Model.  


Ocean Allies provides a range of resources for diverse workers within the ocean innovation sector

Other Resources and Opportunities:


2021 Navigating Change Report  

Ocean Allies Awards Nomination Form: 

Ocean Allies Industry Role models


Role Model intake   form: 

Ocean Allies Coffee Chat: 




Mary Keith, Vice President Communications


Irving Shipbuilding


Office: 902-484-2435


Cell: 506-650-8209




Kes Morton, President and CEO


Pisces Research Project Management