A ground-breaking ceremony will happen by the end of the month to mark where a highly anticipated industry-led marine training centre will be built on Songhees First Nation land.
“We hope to break ground certainly around the end of February, with the facility being in place by the end of July,” Malcolm Barker, vice-president and general manager of Victoria Shipyards, told members of the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon last week.
The 4,000-square-foot Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre will be located at the end of Maplebank Road, next door to the Esquimalt Graving Dock, where Victoria Shipyards operates.
The $1.8-million centre, funded by the province and industry partners, including Seaspan Marine Corp., which owns Victoria Shipyards, will have two classrooms and research space.
Planning of a new entry-level shipbuilding program for the centre began at Camosun College on Wednesday, and will likely launch in July, said Geoff Stevens, the centre’s project manager.
Shipwright and marine fitter apprenticeship programs may be available to students in September.
“Quite frankly, up until recently there just hasn’t been the demand (for these trade-specific courses),” Stevens said.
The pressure is mounting for the shipyard to find and hire enough junior and senior shipbuilding managers before work begins at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014 on an $8-billion federal contract to construct five Canadian Coast Guard and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels.
Hiring is underway as work at the yard ramps up on several ongoing projects, including Canada’s submarines and refits to cruise ships and naval vessels.
The shipyard employs 65 apprentices, but another 35 are needed in all trades by year’s end. The number of workers is also expected to increase from 750 to more than 1,000 by the end of this month or beginning of March.
But filling senior-level positions is the big challenge.
“We firmly believe we’re going to get the workforce in the future, but the high-end project managers, technical people, schedulers, planners, quality control people – these are the guys that are in short supply,” Barker said.
• Submarine repair: $350 million, 15-year term, 230 people
• Frigate modernization: $351 million, seven-year term, 300 people
• Construction of seven new Coast Guard and naval ships: $8 billion, 10 years
• Other commercial work: cruise ship refits, B.C. Ferries repair work, among other repair and new construction jobs.