Home Arts, Culture & Education Education Building a Northern marine labour force

Building a Northern marine labour force

Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium

Marine Safety training in frobisher Bay in october. © Kerone Folkes

The Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium (NFMTC) is a marine training school based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, with a history of 12 successful years of marine training. Some of its goals include:

  • Providing marine training in all its facets in the North, so northerners will be able to access all marine training without “going south”.
  • Creating a marine labour force in Canada’s Arctic that is reflective of its population — indigenous, northern, men and women.

On February 2, the Federal Government announced it is providing $12.6 million over three years to NFMTC to deliver marine training in the North to reduce barriers for under represented groups in the marine labour force, such as women, Inuit, Indigenous Peoples and Northerners. This initiative, funded under the Ocean Protections Plan (OPP), and in partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories, will help establish a marine training facility in Hay River, Northwest Territories, and will allow expansion of NFMTC’s current marine training programs in Nunavut and Nunavik. This funding will help with the development of curriculum and the purchase of new specialized marine training equipment which will equip the Marine Training Program so northerners will not have to travel south for marine training.

Marine firefighting training. © Randy Pittman

“NFMTC’s philosophy has always been Northern jobs should be filled by Northerners,” points out Jeffrey Maurice, Chair of the Consortium, “this funding initiative will allow us to do just that and meet one of our long-standing objectives.”

There have been many success stories. Young men and women from every region in Nunavut have discovered the marine industry as a career path, not just a job to “tide you over” but a career with a future. The marine industry is not just about fishing — while that sector is a major employer — it is about sea lift companies, working on research vessels, in the processing plants, in the inshore fishery.

To date, the training has taken place almost exclusively in Nunavut (in Iqaluit and in communities across Nunavut) with some courses delivered out of the Territory, when the equipment is simply not available. About two-and-a-half years ago, NFMTC opened a Training Centre in Iqaluit which is second to none; however, the demand for training in all areas has been growing. With the new funding under the OPP, the operations in Iqaluit will be expanded to include a new space to house new equipment (such as a life boat/fast rescue boat simulator, a radio simulator, a training boat, etc.) as well as a new classroom/workshop. Under CanNor funding, another federal government agency, NFMTC has received additional funding for renovation costs, an expansion to its existing bridge simulator and other equipment, over two years.

Students learn how to navigate using charts. © Randy Pittman

Now the training is set to expand to the Northwest Territories, with the main training facility in Hay River. Community-based program­ming is expected to be delivered as well. “NFMTC has always been about partnerships — that is part of our success,” says Elisabeth Cayen, Executive Director of NFMTC. NFMTC is in the early stages of this three-year program and is seeking partners throughout the North to connect with to see where there is interest in marine training that leads to certification and employment opportunities in Canada or internationally. This consultation process with partners has always been and will continue to be ongoing.

With the monies received under OPP, training programs are set to expand to include marine safety training from the basics to advanced training, as well as environmental response training. The training is intended to reduce the barriers faced by Northerners who are trying to enter the marine sector and build a strong marine labour force representative of the population. It is all about providing economic opportunities for Northerners. It is also about helping Northerners protect their communities by providing training that will allow them to play a meaningful role in local marine emergency response to protect the Arctic’s waterways.

The new NT training facility is expected to open sometime in the spring and the expansion to its current Training Centre is expected to be operational about the same time. These are exciting times for the marine industry — to build a Northern marine labour force and to build that force in the North.