Denise Watters felt a stab of nerves as she walked into Irving’s Halifax Shipyard to begin her new job as a welder.
While she worried about shipbuilding being “a man’s world,” she was welcomed with open arms by her colleagues and soon settled in welding metal parts for the Royal Canadian Navy’s new ships.
“Now that I’m in the shipyard? Amazing experience. The things that we’re doing and the things that Irving is putting together, it’s unreal,” said Watters.
She officially began her job on June 5 after completing the Women Unlimited program earlier this year.
While Women Unlimited started about 10 years ago, the program recently partnered with Irving, Canadian Welding Association Foundation, the provincial government and the Nova Scotia Community College to create the new Irving Shipbuilding Women Unlimited Program.
Watters joined the first class of 17 women. Each completed a 14-week career exploration program followed by a two-year welding or metal fabrication diploma at NSCC.
Students who completed the diploma course and met Irving’s hiring requirements were promised a job at its Halifax Shipyard if positions were available. Watters was one of 15 Women Unlimited students hired.
The second class began this year and 19 women will start their diploma programs in the fall of 2017 after completing their 14-week orientation.
“It’s something totally different. I’m a mom of four kids and I come from a tourism background,” said Watters.
A place in history
While shipbuilding is seen by many as a male-dominated industry, Nova Scotian women nonetheless have a long and honourable history in this trade.
Halifax Shipyard recruited its first female workers in 1943 during Second World War when many yard workers were fighting on the front lines.
Back home, a group of Nova Scotian women completed the three-month War Emergency Training Program, followed by work on warships and convoy vessels in Halifax.
Then as now, all the small components eventually come together to form a new vessel thanks to the men and women of the Halifax Shipyard.
“In the end there will be a ship,” said Watters.
More than 70 years after the Halifax Shipyard welcomed its first women workers, 185 are employed today according to Irving’s figures, up from 85 just five years ago. The current number translates to a work force that is just over 12 per cent female, a number that is expected to increase.
“To ensure we are building a team of the best shipbuilders in the world it is important that we create opportunities for all Canadians to enter shipbuilding trades. The first class of graduates from the Irving Shipbuilding Women Unlimited Program already working at our Halifax Shipyard clearly demonstrate the talent that this partnership has developed,” said Irving Shipbuilding President Kevin McCoy in an emailed statement.
Tradeswomen today are working on projects such as the RCN’s new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships, or AOPS, as well as refurbishing existing vessels such as Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Halifax.
The AOPS vessels will start as 63 smaller components that will be linked to form 21 bigger blocks. These 21 sections will then be put together into three ‘mega-blocks’ consisting of the ships’ bows, sterns and mid-sections.
Finally, the three mega-blocks will be joined up to form the full AOPS. The navy will receive six such vessels from the Halifax Shipyard.
Irving workers will use a similar modular approach to build the navy’s new Canadian surface combatant vessels starting in the 2020s, the next-generation destroyers to replace those being phased out of service this decade.
Disclaimer: This video is intended for informational purpose only. This may not be construed as a news item or advice of any sort. Please consult the experts in that field for the authenticity of the presentations.
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Source: The Chronicle Herald