Kiwi training for Nova Scotia builders - Soundings Online

Kiwi training for Nova Scotia builders

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Nova Scotia boatbuilders have turned to their counterparts in New Zealand for assistance in training its next generation of tradesmen.

Nova Scotia boatbuilders have turned to their counterparts in New Zealand for assistance in training its next generation of tradesmen. The Kiwis, who have a renowned apprenticeship program, have agreed to a three-year deal to license training materials to Nova Scotia.

The Canadians are trying to plan for a predicted shortage of skilled workers, according to the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association. The NSBA was developing its own standards for an apprenticeship model when it approached the New Zealanders.

“We already knew that the model we wanted to emulate was the one they were using,” says NSBA training coordinator Chip Dickison. The model is competency-based and takes place in the workplace, he says, allowing students to learn hands-on skills while earning a living.

“Not everybody is built to go to post-secondary institutions, and not everybody can afford to,” says Dickison. Instead of two years of “theoretical training” in a classroom, and the fees and tuition that come with it, he says apprenticeships will last between four-and-a-half and five years. Students earn a certificate after demonstrating a range of skills related to a particular hull construction method: wood, fiberglass/composite or metal.

In addition to New Zealand’s Boating Industry Training Organization, the NSBA has worked with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Nova Scotia Community College to make the program a reality. (Despite the hands-on focus, some classroom and off-site training is involved.) The program was piloted in September 2004 and now has 32 apprentices working in 15 boatyards.

Dickison describes the boatbuilding industry as a roughly 250-year-old tradition in Nova Scotia, and many builders are located in rural coastal communities. Not long ago, the demand for boats rose and fell with the commercial fishing industry. Manufacturers now build more recreational boats, and the skills required of employees have changed.

“A stated goal [of the program] is that the level of skill the practitioners bring to bear is elevated,” says Dickison, who notes New Zealand is known for megayachts requiring a high level of fit and finish. “The consumer could be assured that they’ll receive a safe, sound boat that’s really built for the sea.” www.nsboats.com