B.C.'s shipbuilding industry set to grow by 3,000 jobs and billions by 2020

Employment in B.C.’s shipbuilding and repair sector is projected to grow by almost 3,000 jobs by 2020 as billions of dollars worth of federal contracts come to the west coast.

A new analysis by B.C.’s shipbuilding and repair workforce table, working with industry, government, unions, and training organizations, released Wednesday said that for the first time the baseline employment for this sector has been established.

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There are currently 4,627 jobs in B.C., representing those directly employed in shipbuilding and repair, plus those working in the metal plate and fabrication industry, largely dependent on shipbuilding work.

Employment is predicted to increase to 6,883, representing direct and indirect workers, by 2016, and move to 7,605 by 2020, the report said.

Seaspan Marine Corp. won the opportunity in 2011 to negotiate construction of $8 billion worth of large non-combat federal ships. This work is part of the $35-billion federal National Shipbuilding and Procurement Strategy. Seaspan owns Victoria  Shipyards, which operates at the Esquimalt Graving Dock, as well as Vancouver Shipyards. Initial work on the federal vessels will be carried out in Vancouver and they will be completed and taken out on trials from Esquimalt.

Construction of the first ships is expected to start late in 2013. Work will carry on for at least a decade.

Shipbuilding and repair is predicted to generate $10 billion in B.C.’s economy by 2010, the report said.

Retired navy Capt. Alex Rueben, who served as the Table’s chairman, said in a release, “The shipbuilding and ship repair industry has entered an exciting period of growth that brings with it the need for a larger and highly skilled  workforce.”

The workforce table has laid the groundwork for the strategies and  steps that need to be taken to enable the challenges of current and future work requirements to be met and to allow for the expansion and enhanced competitiveness of the entire sector.

Rueben is the new executive director of the 4,400-square-foot Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre going up on Maplebank Road, off Admirals Road. It was created to address the need for more training in the shipbuilding sector for everything from entry-level positions to executive level jobs.

The first students are expected to start classes in January.

Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, said the report delivers a blueprint on where to focus skills and training investments in schools, colleges, universities and training organizations for the shipbuilding sector.

A new B.C. program will give employers hiring apprentices in shipbuilding and repair sector a tax credit of 20 per cent of annual wages, up to $5,250 per apprentice.

Brian Carter, president Seaspan Shipyards, said, “Seaspan has reviewed the workforce table report and is pleased with the progress made thus far.”

Seaspan anticipates building three offshore fisheries science vessels, one offshore oceanographic science vessel, one Polar icebreaker and two joint support ships. More ships may be constructed because the bulk of a further $5 billion announced in this year’s federal budget is expected to go towards non-combat ships.

At the Vancouver yard alone, Seaspan has predicted worker numbers will reach 1,200 by 2016.

Seaspan launched its construction plans in October, saying it will spend $200 million to prepare its yards to build the federal ships.

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