Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today.
At Irving Shipbuilding we have a proud history of building ships for Canada. We've built more than 80% of Canada's current fleet and have been maintaining ships for the Royal Canadian Navy since its inception.
Today we're proudly building the navy's future fleet as part of the national shipbuilding strategy. Since being selected in 2011 as Canada's combatant shipbuilder, we've invested over $360 million to construct state-of-the-art facilities with the best equipment for the efficient building of Canada's naval ships. We're committed not only to doing a great job building ships for Canada, but also to making sure that the industry remains sustainable for the long term. We're investing in training and education programs to develop 21st-century shipbuilders and modernize the face of shipbuilding.
Shipbuilding, like many trades-related industries, has traditionally been a male industry. In 2011, 85 women in total were employed by Irving Shipbuilding. Today, 179 of our 1,400 employees are women, including 44 in trade-related positions. It's clear that there's still more work to be done, but we are making some progress. At Irving Shipbuilding we believe a sustainable industry includes a diverse and representative workforce. In 2012 we entered into a partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College to establish the Irving Shipbuilding centre of excellence.
I'm please to have Odette Merchant, project manager of the centre of excellence with us here today. Through the centre of excellence, Irving Shipbuilding invests $250,000 annually in the centre. The mandate for the centre is to create opportunities and pathways for people to participate in shipbuilding, with a focus on under-represented groups: women, African-Canadians, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.
Through the centre of excellence, we've partnered with Women Unlimited. You just heard from Doreen Parsons about the transformational work of their organization. Our program with Women Unlimited is specific to Irving Shipbuilding, so we're focused on training women for employment at the Halifax shipyard. To date, that's been in the welding and metal fabrication trades because that's where our demand will be.
We partnered with Women Unlimited, the Nova Scotia Community College, the Canadian Welding Association Foundation, Praxair, Unifor, the Government of Nova Scotia, and the Government of Canada to provide educational bursaries, safety equipment, tools, and support programs for the participants while they study at the community college and then through their work terms at Irving Shipbuilding as well.
Currently, 15 women, including Denise, are completing their final work term at Irving Shipbuilding, and that's their second of two. After receiving their diploma from NSCC next month, if hiring requirements are met and if positions are available, the women will be employed at the Halifax shipyard as apprentice welders and iron workers. We've also established our second program with Women Unlimited, so another group of women is just starting. They started in April, and they'll do the same program, so two years from now they'll be ready to work.
We've been very pleased with the progress of this project, the commitment of the partners, and the lessons we've learned so far. In fact, we were so pleased with this project that we actually modelled a new program after the Women Unlimited program, which is our pathways to shipbuilding program for indigenous students. We also have 19 male and female students studying metal fabrication at the Nova Scotia Community College currently. They have that same commitment that, if all requirements are met, they'll come to the shipyard as well.
Programs like Women Unlimited and pathways to shipbuilding would not be possible without the long-term commitment of the national shipbuilding strategy and the partnerships between employers, educators, government, labour, and non-profit organizations. It's important to work together to continue to address the gender gap and to create opportunities based on ability and not gender.
I'm honoured to welcome Denise Watters to say a few words about her experience in the Irving Shipbuilding Women Unlimited program.