Ocean Allies Partnership Pushes for Diversity to Boost Innovation and Growth of Canada’s Ocean Sector

May 20, 2021 – During Canadian Innovation Week, May 17-21, partners on the Ocean Allies Initiative are examining the effect of diversity on innovation in Canada’s Ocean industry. A new report “Navigating Change: an examination of the current state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Canada’s ocean sector”, prepared by Upswing Solutions and funded in part by Ocean Allies has determined that the sustainability and future performance of Canada’s ocean sector will depend on attracting a diverse workforce.

“It is widely understood and acknowledged that diverse teams perform better in many ways, including innovation and growth.” – Navigating Change Report, February 2021

Irving Shipbuilding is confirming a 2021 allocation of $100,000 in support of the Ocean Allies project, which is valued at over $420,000. The project has begun to access, engage and support a diverse ocean economy through targeted strategic initiatives across five industry work packages.

Ocean Allies is a first of its kind initiative bringing together diverse talent to reduce barriers to entry into Canada’s ocean innovation ecosystem. The cluster-building project includes funding and leadership from Irving Shipbuilding (ISI) and is spearheaded by Pisces Research Project Management Inc. together with partners Upswing Solutions, Huntsman Marine Science Centre, Assembly of First Nations, BioNB, Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), Nova Scotian Business Inc (NSBI), Ocean Subsea, Synapse, Militacs and Ulnooweg.

Irving Shipbuilding has begun implementing sector-wide and employer-specific recommendations from the Navigating Change report.

Sector-wide recommendations

1. Commit financial resources to support DE&I initiatives in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

2. Include underrepresented groups at the design stage of ocean sector initiatives

3. Increase public awareness of ocean-sector careers and amplify work in the sustainable ocean economy

4. Clearly communicate the importance and benefits of Indigenous participation to the ocean sector

Employer-specific recommendations

5. Executive DE&I training to address lack of cultural awareness and understanding

6. Develop policy-driven initiatives to support ocean-sector career development for individuals facing inequity

7. Develop collaborative partnerships and community relationships

As of September 2020, ISI has increased the representation of women skilled trades employees to 8.5 per cent at its operations; in Nova Scotia, the availability of women with a skilled trade is 2.6 per cent of the total skilled trades population. Professional women representation at ISI is 4.1 per cent higher than the current availability in the labour market.

The Pathways to Shipbuilding Program at ISI was developed with the intent to increase hiring from under-represented groups in the shipbuilding industry by providing skilled trades education and employment opportunities. The program has graduated cohorts of African Canadians, Mi’kmaw and Indigenous people and two cohorts of women. A fifth cohort for Indigenous people is currently underway. The Pathways program won a 2019 Employment Equity Achievement Award from Employment and Social Development Canada.

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