For Denise Watters, joining the new generation of shipbuilders that will modernize the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I hope to have my hands on the first one that hits the water so I can proudly say I was part of it right from the start.”
Denise is one of 19 women participating in a new pilot program between NSCC, Women Unlimited and Irving Shipbuilding Inc. that will prepare them for a career in shipbuilding. It’s quite a change of course for this mother of four who has, for the past two decades, worked in the hospitality industry. But as she explains, she wanted something more hands on, and she was looking for a career where she could earn more to support her family.
“A friend of mine was studying welding at NSCC’s Akerley Campus, and her experience really inspired me, so I decided to go for it.”
Her journey started with Women Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that helps women overcome barriers to employment in the fields of technology and trades. Shortly after applying to their 14-week Career Exploration Program, she heard about the pilot program and knew it was the right choice for her. Not only did it offer diplomas in welding and metal fabrication, there was also the possibility of employment upon graduation with Irving Shipbuilding.
“That was huge for me. To have the potential for job security, benefits, a good salary and be able to work for a great company like Irving right here at home as I earn my red seal.”
What the future holds
Denise says all three partners have been incredibly supportive and encouraging every step of the way. “Anything we need or anything we do, they have our back, helping us meet our goals and preparing us for work. It’s been amazing.”
Looking ahead, Denise envisions a long and rewarding career building ships, but she hasn’t ruled out possibly starting her own welding shop one day. In the meantime, she encourages anyone thinking of a career change to consider trades, particularly women.
“The more women that we can get into the trades, the better. Not just because skills are needed, but also because they are mostly male dominated. I think times are changing.”