As drum beats compete against a backdrop of industrial sounds at the Esquimalt Graving Dock, Songhees Nation artist Mike Charlie sings a song of prayer.
The traditional piece provided protection over the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre.
It represents a bright future for the Island’s shipbuilding industry as well as for nearby First Nations communities, Charlie said.
The centre, which will be built on neighbouring Songhees Nation land by the end of July, will begin offering entry-level shipbuilding courses in September.
“I wouldn’t mind trying to get into the school and be a shipbuilder,” Charlie, 35, said.
At Monday’s ceremony at Victoria Shipyards, Lynne Yelich, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification Canada, announced the federal government is contributing $1.04 million towards the construction of the 4,000-square-foot facility, which will feature classrooms and research space.
The province and industry partners, including Seaspan which owns Victoria Shipyards, are chipping in $1.8 million.
Western Economic Diversification Canada will also work in the months and years ahead to help businesses capitalize on the $8-billion contract Seaspan was awarded last fall. The shipbuilder will construct new naval and Canadian Coast Guard vessels at the Vancouver and Victoria Shipyards.
The federal department plans to host a shipbuilding summit and co-ordinate information boot camps and tours to showcase western shipbuilding capabilities, Yelich said.
“We will link western businesses to the key decision-makers,” she said.
The training centre could lead many Songhees people toward a future of steady employment, said Charlie.