Overview of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

 Nicole Ladouceur

Nicole Ladouceur

JEDI’s June 4, 2014 Shipbuilding Plenary in Miramichi, NB was a great success. We were happy to host a full room of delegates, thought-provoking presentations and interesting trade booths.

One of the presentations came from Nicole Ladouceur, Director General, Entrepreneurship Branch, Lands and Economic Development Sector, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). She provided us with an overview of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

On October 19, 2011, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy Secretariat announced that Irving Shipbuilding Inc. in Atlantic Canada, was selected to build combat vessels and Seaspan Marine Corporation in BC, was selected to build non-combat vessels under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

The strategy valued the combined projects at over $36 billion and each project has an expected lifespan of 20 – 30 years. It is expected that $29.3 billion of this budget will be spent on the East coast over the duration of this project. This means that there is an opportunity for high school students to graduate and move into careers that will last for over 20 years in this industry. In fact, there are children who are not even born yet who may work on the shipbuilding project.

The strategy was launched to address the cyclical nature of shipbuilding. Normally, shipbuilding incurs a massive investment and a boom in jobs and then after the ships are built the jobs disappear. The strategy has been set-up so that a legacy will be left behind which includes infrastructure, job mentoring, new skills, etc.

There will be many activities over the 30 years beginning with the upgrading of the shipyards on both the East and West coast. The shipyard upgrading requires electricians, carpenters and plumbers to name a few tradespeople.

In addition to the shipyard upgrade, the immediate area will require parking facilities for the new workers, transport infrastructure and even new apartment buildings. Contracts have started to flow and people have begun to work.

AANDC established steering committees on both coasts to ensure there was a good method in place to share information, for example, what was going on, what was working, and how to avoid expensive mistakes. Each ccommittee is made up of representatives from federal government departments, provincial government departments, Aboriginal organizations, the two shipyards, and other interested stakeholders.

In addition, there has been an alliance formed on the West coast which includes all of the West coast First Nations. This alliance has had conversations with Seaspan which has helped the alliance to determine their own needs and where they need to invest. The West coast alliance has travelled to the East coast to share their learnings.

On the East coast, the focus has been on determining what critical areas need attention and answering some questions.

  • What do Aboriginal entrepreneurs need and how can we get them involved?
  • How can we develop and increase Aboriginal capacity in this project?
  • What is the overall demand for the full-life of the contracting process in terms of skills?
  • What is the supply of these skills in the Atlantic region?
  • At what time will these skills be required?

This strategizing has also helped to identify current courses being offered in the region, making sure that they are the appropriate courses and ensuring that they are offered in a timely manner so that Aboriginal students can apply to these programs. Irving Shipbuilding has already assisted with $250,000 of the funding for the establishment of the Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence with Nova Scotia Community College. The mandate of this Centre includes an emphasis on underrepresented groups, including the Aboriginal community.

Seaspan started upgrading their shipyard earlier than Irving and to date, 10 Aboriginal firms have won more than 38% of the contracts awarded by Seaspan. Seaspan has also announced that it has reserved 24 apprenticeship positions for Aboriginal clients.  As Seaspan moves forward, they will continue to share the number of contracts that are being awarded to Aboriginal businesses and the number of Aboriginal workers being hired.

Irving has amended their procurement policy to give extra consideration to those businesses/ suppliers with Aboriginal participation. Seaspan is considering this amendment as well.

The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy will continue to work with Seaspan, Irving and other key stakeholders to ensure that there is continued Aboriginal involvement in the process and that economic benefits are realized by the Aboriginal population on both coasts.

If you are an Aboriginal entrepreneur who would like to get your business involved in this project, contact JEDI to get signed up for the shipbuilding business database and to ask questions about this strategy, 506 444-5650.