The phone at Jim Fitzpatrick’s office has been ringing off the hook since word began spreading around the world about Seaspan Marine Corp. winning an $8-billion federal shipbuilding contract.
“People are inquiring about this new construction. They’re calling from eastern Canada. They’re calling from Scotland. They’re calling from Wales,” said Fitzpatrick, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Local 191, which represents about 180 workers at Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt.
In the coming months, about 400 workers will be hired at the Esquimalt-based shipyard, which already employs about 600. Canadians will be hired first, Fitzpatrick said.
Many more will be hired at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards and Vancouver Drydock to prepare for the construction of Canadian Coast Guard and non-combat Royal Canadian Navy ships over the next 15 to 20 years.
Efforts are underway to prepare for that massive hiring blitz, which Fitzpatrick said should ramp up in January and February.
Premier Christy Clark announced Nov. 2 that a group of key education, union, government and shipbuilding stakeholders, including Seaspan, will begin meeting later this month.
The new B.C. Shipbuilding and Repair Sector Table is part of Clark’s jobs plan.
Table participants will have the job of ensuring there are enough trained workers to support the construction of the ships, which is expected to create and sustain 4,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C.
The premier touted the long-term jobs that — thanks to the federal government’s $33-billion shipbuilding contracts — lie ahead for workers in the industry.
The $8-billion contract “begins to build a shipbuilding industry,” Clark told workers at the Victoria Shipyards last week. “It creates that platform so that not just this generation in this room can look forward to years of work, but their kids can.”
To Fitzpatrick, new construction offers the promise of long-term work.
In the past six years, employment for shipbuilding tradespeople has been “topsy-turvy” since lucrative long-term contracts were few and far between, he said.
“Once you get new construction, there’s stability,” said Fitzpatrick. “This announcement is tremendous for young families here.”