Good afternoon, everyone.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As was mentioned, my name is Don Bureaux, and I have the honour of being the president for the Nova Scotia Community College. Greetings from the beautiful Annapolis Valley here in Nova Scotia.
It was a very special day in October 2011 when all Nova Scotians collectively celebrated the awarding of the multi-million dollar shipbuilding contract to Irving Shipbuilding to of course construct combat ships for the federal government. The interest in being part of this project was certainly intense, and the excitement around a rebirth of our place in the nation as a shipbuilding province drew an unprecedented sense of pride.
I became president of the Nova Scotia Community College that same year. We are a pan-provincial college. We're the only publicly funded college in Nova Scotia, and we have 17 locations, with a mandate to help build a workforce for our province.
Since then, we've worked very hard and very proudly with the Irving Shipbuilding company as they came out of the starting gate strong to lay the foundation to launch this massive project. Part of their submission, of course, was a value proposition that included the work we've partnered on over the past number of years to enrich and build the skills and the dynamic of its workforce by ensuring, quite frankly, that all hands were on deck.
To kick-start this positive partnership, we signed an MOU with Irving to set up a centre of excellence. One of the major initiatives emerging from this centre was our pathways programming. The focus of this was to open doors to those historically under-represented in the shipbuilding industry. This included women, African Nova Scotians, indigenous, disabled and new Canadian learners.
A critical piece of our graduate success has been the support from our communities. Partners like the East Preston Empowerment Academy, the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Society, and Women Unlimited have given invaluable onboarding and continuing support for the learners throughout the entire journey.
We've had a number of people graduate from this program, with the majority heading to the shipyard for work placements and mentoring into eventual employment.
One of the keys to the program's success has been the unique cultural guidance and enrichment provided by our community partners for the students, for us as a college and for Irving, with a 14-week prep program interwoven with significant cultural threads to create a supportive community of learners built upon shared cultural experiences. NSCC and Irving continue to work with our partners, which include the provincial and federal governments, unions, industry associations and our local apprenticeship agency, to grow more developmental opportunities, including student awards.
The college has also helped train and upskill hundreds of individuals through our customized training team, and our team continues to develop training supports to help hone the skills of those building Canada's ships. At the same time that the work of the centre was under way, the college, with Irving, added to its infrastructure to support the growing needs. This included a new community learning centre in Amherst, with new programming; two new metal trades labs in our metro Halifax and Cape Breton campuses; a new pipe trades lab at our Halifax campus; and a new lab and programming at our Kentville campus.
I have submitted a briefing document with greater detail, but the facts and figures just don't provide the full extent of the project's dividends. The words and the personal transformations of our graduates tell so much more.
For example, Antonia Wareham, one of our first grads, who is now a mentor to those who have followed in the program, said, “I'm incredibly proud.... The Pathways program makes the industry more diverse and gives it a better chance [for] flawless success.” Sattina Dabb said, “I am now a woman in trades. I can be a role model [for] my children, especially my daughter.” Finally, Brad Paul said, “I wanted a career that was not only fulfilling for me, but [it] more importantly, ensured my daughter has the opportunities I didn't have.”
Our mission at the college is simple. It's to build the economy and quality of life of Nova Scotia through education and innovation one learner at a time. Our partnership with Irving to support this strategic work fits perfectly with that mission. The transformational changes this partnership has fostered with individuals like Antonia, Sattina and Brad speak to the priceless ripple effects stemming from this contract's value proposition.
What began a decade ago as a major economic advantage to our region, and what one observer called an “optimism dividend”, has taken on even greater significance with rising global activity. It has crystalized for all the importance of investing in a skilled workforce able to fulfill this national contract.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair and committee members, thank you for the honour of speaking on behalf of the college today. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.