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Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Issue 9 - Evidence - November 28, 2012

OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:10 p.m. to study the benefits and services provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to veterans; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.

Senator Roméo Antonius Dallaire (Chair) in the Chair.


The Chair: Welcome to everybody. Today, we are resuming our study on the benefits and services provided to veterans, injured or not but with military experience, after their transition to civil life.

That being said, we will hear today, and maybe next week, the last witnesses to appear before our committee on this subject, unless there is a change in our list of witnesses. After that, we will finalize our study.


Today we have Brian McCarthy, Vice-President, Human Resources, Irving Shipbuilding, who is in shipbuilding land and here by video conference. With us here this morning we also have Peter Hart, Managing Director of Canada Company, which I am not sure if we call an NGO or not, but you will qualify that.

We would like your short introductions to the subject and what you are doing. Mr. McCarthy is first, followed by Mr. Hart. Subsequently, we will put you through the gears and ask some pertinent questions with regard to the subject at hand.

Mr. McCarthy, please start the session.

Brian McCarthy, Vice-President, Human Resources (Irving Shipbuilding), Irving: Today I will provide an overview of Irving shipbuilding and the projects we are working on, and I will talk about upcoming opportunities. I will then be able to answer any questions you have about our recruiting plans, in particular as they relate to veterans and members of the military.

Do you have the presentation there? I sent up a presentation.

The Chair: No, we have not seen it. It did not make it electronically. If you will give us your major points, we will certainly look at it in committee when we receive it.

Mr. McCarthy: Thank you. Irving Shipbuilding has a vibrant workforce of approximately 1,400 employees, with just under 1,200 between our Halifax and Shelburne shipyards and approximately 200 in our engineering arms of Fleetway and Oceanic, with offices in Ottawa, Halifax, St. John's and Victoria. Most people are engaged in current projects we have under way. We have four locations: the Halifax Shipyard, where we are focused on ship construction and repair; Woodside Industries, where we often complete offshore retrofit and fabrication products; Shelburne Ship Repair, where we specialize in ship repair; and East Isle Shipyard in Prince Edward Island, where we specialize in the construction of small vessels such as tugs.

Currently at the Halifax shipyard we are working on two of the most significant Canadian naval projects today, including the FELEX life extension program to refit seven of the navy's Halifax Class frigates. HMCS Halifax is complete and was returned to Canada this past summer. HMCS Fredericton and HMCS Montreal are under way in the yard today and HMCS Charlottetown is due to arrive in April 2013. We have approximately 575 hourly workers dedicated to the FELEX program, and the entire project is due for completion in 2017.

We are also constructing nine Hero Class mid-shore patrol vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard. The first of these vessels, the Private Robertson, was delivered to our customer in July 2012; the second was delivered to the customer in November 2012, and that is the Caporal Kaeble vessel. This means that seven of the nine vessels are either delivered or under construction at various stages in the Halifax shipyard, being worked on by approximately 250 hourly shipbuilders. This program is due for completion in 2014.

Irving Shipbuilding, and the industry in general, has been advocating for a national strategy for many years. To address the ongoing nature of the business and to ensure that Canada has a competent, effective shipbuilding resource ready to meet the needs of the military, it was necessary to look again at how projects and large-scale programs are completed. Choosing one or two shipyards and establishing centres of excellence would allow for the continuation of a healthy, vibrant industry in Canada. In June 2010, the federal government announced the National Shipbuilding Procurement strategy, or NSPS, and $35 billion was to be invested in the federal fleet over the next 30 years. This was a competitive, fair, open and transparent process using a fairness monitor and independent third-party experts. Two shipyards for building large vessels were chosen, one for combat vessels and one for non-combat vessels. On November 19, 2011, we received the best news possible when we were chosen by Canada to negotiate the right to build the new naval combat fleet for Canada.

Since that day, we have reached agreement in principle on the umbrella agreement with the federal government in January 2012, which is an important step to move forward in our negotiations with the federal government, beginning the work on formal contracts for the Arctic offshore patrol vessels. At the same time, it was decided that the AOPS program would be broken down into two separate contracts, one for design engineering and one for the build and construction phase. The benefit of having this work divided into two contracts is that the vessel design will be more mature and well understood before construction progresses.

In June of this year, we signed an ancillary contract with the federal government worth $9 million that essentially allows us to continue the considerable work required to get ready for the design and engineering phase of the AOPS program. Our small team is currently working on an AOPS execution plan, reviewing the design and doing detailed cost estimates of the design work. We also continue to negotiate with the federal government to reach an agreement on the definition contract and hope to have that in place to begin design work as early as possible in 2013.

From there, according to the DND published dates, the schedule for major milestones includes signing of the bill to contract for AOPS in 2015; cut steel for the first AOPS vessel in 2015; signing of the designing contract in 2016; the delivery of the first vessel in 2018; delivery of the first CFC vessel in 2022; and completion of the AOPS program in 2024.

Beyond these program milestones, there is a great deal to be accomplished within our organization to prepare for the programs ahead. Since the October 2011 decision we have mobilized our own NSPS program team and undertaken an in-depth organizational readiness review looking at our own processes and systems — such as human resources, information technology and so on — to see where we need to invest and improve. We continue work with international experts and our customer to refine our plans for modernizing our yard facilities.

On the facilities modernization front, we are moving forward on the work required to get ready for this project. The fact that we have invested heavily to date will help position us to move forward. The more than $100 million invested by J.D. Irving, Limited and Irving Shipbuilding — facilities, people and technology — over the past five years puts us in strong a position to begin the major investments now required for the NSPS.

In total, we expect that this will require investment of $300 million. We have also been busy with ensuring we have the required permitting and regulatory approvals. We issued an RFP for consulting engineering services in July 2012 and hired Hatch Mott MacDonald to provide engineering services to help take our plans to the next level and get ready for construction. Our plans will continue to evolve as we work with engineering experts and our customer, and we expect to share these plans and corresponding updated facility drawings in the new year.

Our yard workforce has adjusted weekly to match the specific work requirements in our yards. This is the nature of our industry and illustrates the importance of programs like the NSPS. Once fully under way, the NSPS program will provide steady work over a multi-year, multi-decade time frame. It is important to understand that the ongoing ebb and flow of our workforce will continue until we are well into the 30-year stream of work.

In the meantime, we have been working with community groups, educational institutions and government departments to start to plan for future workforce needs. We continue to encourage interested people to apply online for current positions as well as future opportunities. At present, we have approximately 20,000 resumes on file, the bulk of which came in after our last memorandum.

We have put together a workforce strategy and are doing this because we know our workforce will grow. We expect it to grow by about 1,500 over an 8- to 10-year period. The exact timing of that growth is difficult to predict currently and will depend on the signing of the contracts and the initiation of work related to the NSPS program.

We still expect that we will fill these positions by concentrating on our three-prong strategy: to grow them at home — that is, work with local community colleges and universities to build the next generation of shipbuilders; to bring them home, which is to repatriate landed Canadians who have moved out of the region for employment; and to make it home — bring home some of the world's shipbuilders to Canada to continue their careers. The vast majority of our positions will be filled with Canadians, with a few select positions drawing on combat shipbuilding expertise found at international shipbuilding centres.

We also believe, based on the proximity and the desire to be home, that a large proportion of our workforce will be from the Maritimes, and we understand that this will require planning and preparation.

We are still Nova Scotia's largest employer of apprentices, with more than 300 working with us today. This type of learning environment will continue to be a crucial part of our workforce to transfer the skills of our experienced shipbuilders to those who will teach the new generation 10 to 15 years from today.

Irving Shipbuilding has agreed to invest $250,000 per year in the Nova Scotia Community College Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence with a mandate to engage under-represented groups in our sector, in particular Aboriginal groups, African Nova Scotians, women and people with disabilities. On October 19, we signed an MOU with NSCC that will allow consultation work with under-represented groups to begin. Funding for this begins when the construction phase of the NSPS program gets under way.

We also have a strong overall commitment to supporting organizations that serve military members and their families. These causes are close to our corporate heart. Over the past number of years, we have been diligent in supporting as many as possible. Following heavy sponsorship of the Naval Centennial celebrations in Halifax in 2010 where Irving contributed approximately half a million dollars, Irving Shipbuilding has been supporting DND Family Days in both Ottawa and Halifax, the Navy League of Canada, the Wall of Remembrance and the True Patriot Love Foundation, as well as continuing support of the Halifax & Region Military Family and Resource Centre through our Red Friday campaign. In total, Irving Shipbuilding and its employees invested more than $167,000 in 2011-12 to support our military members and their families.

That concludes my presentation. I am open to any questions you might have.

The Chair: Thank you very much. You gave us good detail on the plan of work, which gives us an idea of what the demand will be. Thank you for that and for your analysis of the workforce that may be required.

We will go now to Mr. Hart, please.

Peter Hart, Managing Director, Canada Company: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to come here today to share a bit about Canada Company with you. For those of you who I do not know, Canada Company is a not-for-profit organization. It was founded in 2006 by a gentleman by the name of Blake Goldring, who is the chair and CEO of AGF Management Limited as well as the Honorary Colonel of the Army currently serving. We are comprised of about 450 of the top business and community leaders across Canada. We have chapters in all but a few provinces, and we are working to rectify that. The chapters are led by a volunteer president with approximately 30 to 100 members per province.

Canada Company essentially does five core programs. We fund a number of single initiatives, but we try to focus on five core programs based on the conversations that we have had with Canadian Forces leadership over the years.

In the education space, there are two things we do. The first initiative was started back in 2006 and was a scholarship fund for children of fallen Canadian soldiers. The idea was that all children in that situation would receive a $4,000 cash allowance every year for up to four years, as long as they were attending a post-secondary institution in Canada.

Hand in hand with that is a program I am sure you are familiar with called Project Hero. It was set up by General Hillier and Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Reed a number of years ago. It has since become a Canada Company program in the last couple of years. It is under our umbrella. Project Hero is about 75 colleges and universities across Canada that provide free tuition and sometimes even free room and board to children of the fallen.

Between those two programs, we basically ensure that all Canadian Forces children in those situations do get a good post-secondary education.

On the employment fund, which I think is a big purpose of the meeting today, there are two things that we focused primarily on. One is a program called Sharing the Sacrifice. It is a reservist policy that has been very close to Mr. Goldring's heart and is his personal initiative. He has worked on it for a number of years. It was actually included in the March budget this year in 2012. As it is not my program, I will read the four points that were in the initiative.

One was that Canada Company made a recommendation to the Government of Canada to recognize the vital role and sacrifices our reservists and employers make to protect our values at home and abroad by implementing an employer compensation program that will, first, be more equitable by distributing employee deployment costs across society rather than a small number of employers; second, ensure a vibrant pool of reservists by improving reservist employment opportunities and working conditions; third, ease reservist deployment and transition back to civilian life; and fourth, enable DND to make better personnel decisions and plan for the future. As I said, this was included in Budget 2012.

The fourth initiative of the five core programs is also in the employment space, and it is the Military Employment Transition Program, which we refer to as MET. It was born from a round table in April 2011, with Chief of Military Personnel Rear-Admiral Smith and Lieutenant-General Devlin, about 10 of the top human resources folks in the country, and a number of Canadian Forces officers who had made a successful transition to the private sector to also weigh in. From that round table, we learned that — and I do not know if these numbers are still correct but at the time they were — 4,000 to 5,000 members transition per year and that there was a real need for assistance to help bridge the Canadian Forces members with the private sector.

That is where the program evolved from. It took us about a year to get it up and running. We officially launched on June 15 of this year. We are pleased to say that we have over 40 corporate employer partners on board.

What is different with MET is that we do not just sign up companies. It is easy to get them onboard because there is a lot of goodwill out there. There is a real cultural shift that must happen that we are finding with the members. It is high touch, whether it is coaching on resumé writing or interview skills and generally massaging the whole process from when they make the decision to deselect right through until they are in that interview seat and hopefully getting a job. We find we are focusing on folks coming to us through the DND transition team. We have been connected to them for a number of months now. Our goal is to have 300 corporations or more within the next three years and to have our organization be coast to coast.

We try to walk the talk. We hired a former Canadian Forces captain to run the program. He has also had 10 years on Bay Street, so he has had a bit of both, because you must play both sides of the fence. His name is Shawn Thompson and he is building a team now with regional reps across Canada, so we have the country covered. It is a huge initiative but one we think we can make a fair bit of positive impact with.

The fifth core program, and it may be one that is winding down — we are not sure — is Camps for Kids of Deployed Soldiers. Back in 2009, we sent 67 children to Camp Muskoka in Ontario. Based on that success, last year we had over 300 children of deployed parents who went to camps in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. A number of those were children with special needs. We have never turned a child away. I know there are other organizations out there doing great work in that area as well.

Finally, prior to talking a bit more about MET, I want to talk about one-offs. We support MFRCs across Canada when the requests come in, if it is a good fit for a mandate. We sponsor the DND Family Days in Halifax and have numerous grants, sponsorships and donations. We assess everything as they come in. As we go forward, more and more of our resources will go to the Military Employment Transition Program because, as you all know, it is a big job, one we take seriously, and we are committed to making a positive impact.

That is our program in a nutshell, and we would love to answer any questions you might have.

The Chair: One clarification before going to senators. You said you have four core programs: education, employment — what was the third one?

Mr. Hart: A scholarship fund and Project HERO under education.

The Chair: I want the titles. Education, employment, and what is the other one?

Mr. Hart: The Military Employment Transition Program, Sharing the Sacrifice reservist policy and camps for children of deployed troops.

The Chair: Thank you very much. Thank you for being succinct.

Senator Wallin: Thank you. I want to go to Mr. McCarthy, if I can. I thank you for the overview. We are all in agreement that this is a good program and the right way to go.

However, I do want to focus on what we are supposed to be dealing with here at this committee, which are really work programs that involve folks transitioning out of the military. We have looked at programs that exist in the public service, et cetera.

I know you laid out your workforce strategy, but is there anything particular that you have focused on veterans or people transitioning?

Mr. McCarthy: There is not a particular program or anything per se. We do employ a number of veterans in our organization, but we have no formal program or anything like that to speak of.

Senator Wallin: Do you think you are capturing that because they have military experience in the field so they would come to you more naturally and you do not need a specific program?

Mr. McCarthy: Certainly we are always open to programs and willing to look at that. There is a bit of a natural connection there. The physical location in Halifax is right next to the navy yards, and the work that is done in shipbuilding is very similar and is sort of a natural connection in that way.

Senator Wallin: I will turn, then, to Mr. Hart. If you are trying to get to 300 corporations, there is one for you.

Mr. Hart: I was making that note. We will be talking.

Senator Wallin: Can you talk specifically about that? We have, as I say, looked at these kinds of programs as they exist in the public service so there is priority hiring for people with military service or who are transitioning and may have some disability. There are variations on that. They gravitate, not surprisingly, to wanting to work for DND or VAC or in the military. They are used to that kind of family atmosphere; they are connected.

Of your now 40 and soon to be 300, are companies able to create that kind of connection or atmosphere for former severing members?

Mr. Hart: That is actually right to the point; that is the biggest challenge. We go in and do a seminar, for lack of a better word, sort of a Canadian Forces certification seminar. They usually assign someone on the HR team or a group of people to deal with the intake. If there is an understanding ahead of time of the differences in that the resumés will look a little different or the interview will be a little different, but most importantly the incredible calibre, high quality and the amount of training these folks have, you will not find better prospective employees in Canada. That is what we do ahead of time so there is more of a high-touch approach when Canadian Forces applications come in.

Frankly, if a Canadian Forces resumé hits a filter of one of the big banks that get 650,000 resumés per year and it is all software-driven initially, it will not even make the first cut because it does not have the right markers. We have a way around that, first and foremost.

Second, it is top down. We start with the CEOs, get that commitment and then it flows down through the organization. It is much more than just listing a company on our website. It is a company that is not only eager and willing but has also been educated somewhat to the differences in the hiring process that they will experience.

Senator Wallin: You have touched on I think a key point here. It is not just a matter of the CVs and how they are written; it is actually the recognition in the private sector or the civilian world of the skills they have acquired so that you have equivalencies from universities or community colleges. Are you working on that side of it? Whose job is that?

Mr. Hart: It is interesting. That is a great question. We are working on that exact comparison now. We have one, but I do not think it is quite good enough. We need to be able to explain to a private sector HR person that a corporal in the infantry with this specialization means this in the private sector. This is what he or she makes and this is what they can make here. This is as much for the Canadian Forces member as well so they can determine where they fit in out there and what they will make. Especially on the lower ranks, they will drop down a bit on income initially, so we have to work with them on that and explain they might, but with their skills and training, if they take advantage of the training programs within that company — all the big companies and even the medium-sized ones have that — they will not only get back to where they were quickly but go well beyond that. There is expectation management on both sides.

Senator Wallin: Let me make a final point. Once you get that done for your own purposes, is that something you think you could sell — I do not mean financially — that you could offer to universities and say, "We have worked it out for you," stamp this and say, "The kid has the equivalent of . . ."

Mr. Hart: I see what you are saying. We are not working on that yet. Our mandate was more from Canadian Forces member to private sector employer.

Senator Wallin: If you are doing that base homework —

Mr. Hart: Yes, it would make sense.

Senator Wallin: — and you go to the admission section — that is where we have the problem. You want to hire the truck driver with the skills; he does not have the hours and the ticket, but he has done four tours in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hart: That would be a great thing to do. With us, it would probably be the prioritizing of resources. We are trying to galvanize our membership around this. Once they get involved, we will have the resources to do that. I agree with you 100 per cent.

Senator Wallin: Thank you.

Senator Nolin: A few months ago, we heard from people from Alberta who basically offer that service, equivalency courses between university and the workforce. It already exists, so maybe you should look at that.

Mr. Hart: As one final comment, we are doing that. Something we want is to go to the portal, so we are working with BCIT in British Columbia. They are short of funding, but their program is exactly what we need. That educational piece to the members, that cultural shift is a very time-consuming, resource-heavy piece. If we can tie into organizations across Canada — I understand there is one in Newfoundland that is doing the same thing — we would be keen to do that as well.

The Chair: To confirm, you do not have a system in finding employment; you assist them in giving them the tools from which they can then go and find themselves employment. You guys are not looking for jobs; you are helping them to be more effective in finding jobs. Is that correct?

Mr. Hart: Yes, we do that, but we also build a bridge that literally connects them with employers. It is not just training them to go out into the world at large; we give them the training materials they need and help them as much as we can, and then through our Canada Company website, you can go into the Military Employment Transition Program, and they can directly link to the companies listed on the site that have all had our 45-minute to one-hour seminar; we have been engaged with them and they understand the nature of hiring military.

The Chair: You do not follow them throughout the exercise to the employer stage. The gang that was here from Alberta do just that; they actually find a job with an employer and follow it through.

Senator Nolin: I think you could learn a lot from them.

Mr. Hart: We will work towards that. We look at that number of 4,000 to 5,000 and we are trying to get as much skill as quickly as we can.

Senator Day: Thank you. Both of your presentations have been helpful and thorough, and I just have a couple of points of clarification. My colleague Senator Wallin has touched on one of the areas I wanted to get into.

We all are concerned about matching the qualifications with the private sector needs and how markings on a resumé that jump out at you will not jump out if you give just a military resumé, even though you might have taken many of the same courses. That is an important connection between the military and the private sector.

Mr. McCarthy, could you expand on one of the points you made? You were speaking of the Nova Scotia Community College and your activity there and their new program with respect to shipbuilding expertise, and then you went on to say there was a special mandate with respect to people with disabilities. Could you tell us about that?

Mr. McCarthy: Yes. We are just getting under way. We just signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nova Scotia Community College on October 19. We have of course identified that those groups like Aboriginals, African Nova Scotians, women and people with disabilities are under-represented in our workforce, so we want to work with the community college to engage these under-represented groups and transition that into employment in the private sector. We are just under way and getting started with that. We signed the understanding about a month or so ago, and we are just beginning consultation work now with these groups and the community college. We would like to bring the various groups together and then ensure they can transition to the workforce as easily as possible.

Senator Day: Do you have a special program with respect to retired military personnel who may have physical disabilities?

Mr. McCarthy: We do not have any program I can speak to per se for military veterans. Again, we do employ a large number of them and are very supportive of them, but there is no particular program I can refer to.

Senator Day: That is another area of concern to us. We will just let you know so.

Do you or does Halifax Shipyard have any direct contact with Veterans Affairs or National Defence at the level of potential employees for the shipyard?

Mr. McCarthy: We are always open to it. There is no formal contact from an employability point of view that I can speak to. Again, we are open to working with the military and attempting to engage them and ease the transition for soldiers into civilian life, but there is nothing specific I can point to, sir.

Senator Day: Veterans Affairs and National Defence tell us they have programs in place to help prospective retiring personnel find gainful and meaningful employment in the private sector. It would seem to me that one area of logical contact would be between Veterans Affairs and DND and you at the employment level.

Mr. McCarthy: Yes, I do think it is a natural fit, and as a group we will certainly be following up.

Senator Day: Thank you, Mr. McCarthy, and good luck to you on what we are anticipating as a very important number of decades for the shipyard in Halifax.

Mr. McCarthy: Thank you.

Senator Day: My only regret is that there is not more activity in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Mr. McCarthy: Yes, my father would have loved that.

Senator Day: You will understand why I said that.

The Chair: Senator, do you have more questions?

Senator Day: I do. Mr. Hart and I had a chance to talk earlier, so I have a bit of a flavour for what Canada Company is doing. My immediate concern is that many NGOs out there and many people with much goodwill are trying to do maybe not precisely the same but a lot of the same things for retiring military personnel, some with disabilities and others who have had a career in the military and are now looking to the private sector.

What are you doing to avoid duplicating effort?

Mr. Hart: That is a very good question. We did sort of take stock of who was in the marketplace, for lack of a better term, when we started. There is the Treble Victor Group. I do not know if you are familiar with them. They are ex- Canadian Forces officers who do peer to peer. Once someone has made transition into the private sector, they offer peer support through the first couple of years. We know the True Patriot Love Foundation well and have discussions with them. We did take stock and kind of found the same thing, that there were a lot of great intentions and good initiatives, but it did not seem like any had taken hold on a national scale in a comprehensive program.

Helmets to Hardhats is a prime example, which I know you are familiar with. We have had numerous conversations with them, and I believe they are linked to our website, so when a Canadian Forces member comes to our site, if there is a better place to go, like there is for trades, obviously to Helmets to Hardhats or another specialist organization, as long as they are legitimate and doing good work and everything is copacetic in terms of the standard we like to work at, we will absolutely include them in the program and list them on the site and have them be a partner. If they are out there doing good work, we would be very all-inclusive with our approach.

Senator Day: Do you have anything informal to exchange information on what each group is doing?

Mr. Hart: Perhaps I have not met them yet, but other than True Patriot Love and Treble Victor, we have not found other groups — maybe we have not met them yet — that are at the level we are already operating at. It could be just that we have not met them yet, but we would be open to that, for sure.

Senator Day: Do you meet with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires?

Mr. Hart: We are connected with them. They are officially on the site, and we have gone through the whole process, and that is a perfect example of another organization that is doing great work that we are now officially connected with.

Senator Day: They have been around a long time and are now expanding their base, which is quite interesting.

Mr. Hart: They are a great group.

Senator Day: There is another group called the Canadian Forces Liaison Council. Have you had any contact with them?

Mr. Hart: I presented to them when I think Sonja Bata was still the chair. It was towards the end of her time, and our Ottawa chapter president, Paul Hindo, has taken over the Ontario chapter of CFLC. I presented to them; we had a conversation; it was a great meeting. Nothing really has come of it yet; again, we are open to any and all suggestions. The ball was a bit back in their court to see how we might work together. We do not have that level of knowledge yet. We are just getting into the whole scenario now, and CFLC has been around for a long time.

Senator Day: Finally, what contact, formal or otherwise, do you have with Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence in terms of the efforts in what you are building?

Mr. Hart: Regarding DND, we started with Chief of Military Personnel Rear-Admiral Smith on this whole thing and worked directly with one of his colonels, Colonel Gerry Blais, who runs the DND transition team, and we are connected to the team. There is weekly if not daily contact. There is a formal system of intake where once they are processed through there they come out to the Canada Company MET site. There is a close relationship with DND right now.

We have not gone beyond that because our understanding from the meetings we had was that that was the most effective way to directly connect the Canadian Forces members with our program. If there is a way to do a similar sort of process with Veterans Affairs, we would love to hear about it, but it would be a new initiative for us.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Day. Senator Nolin and then the chair will have an intervention.

Senator Nolin: Thank you very much for both of your presentations. I will start will Mr. McCarthy. Do you hire reservists? Being the largest employer in Halifax, I am sure you have, and how many?

Mr. McCarthy: Yes, we have. I cannot give you the exact number, but we have a number of military ex-reservists who work in our organization, yes.

Senator Nolin: Many employers in Canada hire reservists. Is it that you do not know they are reservists or you prefer to have ex-reservists as employees?

Mr. McCarthy: No, I am sorry; yes, we hire reservists and ex-military.

Senator Nolin: Do you have a number in mind? Can you give a ballpark, please?

Mr. McCarthy: Yes, again, it would be a total guess. It would be in the dozens I would say, but I do not know that for sure. That would be a guess, ballpark.

Senator Nolin: Do you have a special program or attitude or procedural processes to support them as being reservists and your employees?

Mr. McCarthy: We have obligations as an employer to allow them time for training and those sorts of things, and that is certainly done.

Senator Nolin: Mr. McCarthy, you have heard Mr. Hart's presentation. Do you see a fit between you and them?

Mr. McCarthy: I do. I think Mr. Hart mentioned —

Senator Nolin: I saw you taking notes. I hope you were.

Mr. McCarthy: I was.

Senator Nolin: Good. So you see a fit?

Mr. Hart: I see a fit, yes.

Senator Nolin: Thank you very much.

Mr. Hart, I am sure you have some challenges.

Mr. Hart: Yes.

Senator Nolin: What are they?

Mr. Hart: Getting up the scale; just getting scale.

Senator Nolin: Getting Irving first. That is one done.

Mr. Hart: That will help immeasurably, for sure. The willing corporate partner piece is easy for us because many of our 450 members are the top business people in the country, so we have access to corporate Canada. There is still a very positive vibe out there in terms of employer partners wanting to come on board. We do not have a problem getting companies engaged to do this. From the initial statement, "I want to deselect and transition to the private sector," onward to the point of sitting in the interview chair is the challenge. I do not know if you would call it a cultural shift that the men and women have to make the longer they have been in. I hate to use the word "institutionalize" because it sounds negative, but it is not. It is just a certain way of doing things. It is actually a really great way of doing things for the corporate sector. It is just that there has been an awareness of that. Otherwise, there is probably a bit of a discomfort level. Say someone is interviewing and has five resumés that are not as good as the Canadian Forces resumés, but he or she knows these people. They are private sector people. They talk the same; they look the same. Then, they have this individual who has the best resumé, but it does not quite feel the same. That is what we are working around. There is a very easy way to work around it; it just takes time and education.

Senator Nolin: One of the great things that military personnel have to offer is leadership. How do you promote that? How do you explain that to the corporate sector? I think that they would be so inclined to go with all of that.

Mr. Hart: You are 100 per cent right. Again, I guess you can promote. I would rather use the word educate. You have to educate. They have to understand that even an entry-level Canadian Forces personnel gets — I do not know the number — something like $100,000 or $200,000 worth of training in their career. It is a big number. Everyone gets some basic level of really solid training. You do not always see that in the private sector. We always talk about how you are getting discipline, integrity, character, leadership. You look at what even the lower ranks do in battle. It is phenomenal. They lead. They are leaders, and what we look for in the private sector is leadership, logistical ability, common sense, analysis. All of the tools that Canadians Forces members have are exactly what we are looking for. To answer your question, it is education. We take folks up to Petawawa, 80 to 100 people a year on the ExecuTrek program and have them have those conversations and meet the Canadian Forces personnel face to face. That is the most powerful tool we have.

Senator Nolin: It is interesting that you are talking about ExecuTrek. I was on ExecuTrek, at Valcartier, about two weeks ago. One of my discoveries was that some corporations are a bit reluctant to have someone who is ready to exercise leadership but has some kind of a problem if they need that leadership and need some kind of solid business plan to operate in. Sometimes military personnel do not find that in the private sector, so they tend to say, "Well, it is not for me. I want to go somewhere else." Do you see that, too?

Mr. Hart: I am sure it happens a lot. I would like to think that —

Senator Nolin: This organization with someone who needs organization to exercise his leadership.

Mr. Hart: It probably happens quite a bit. I went to the United States, to the Veterans on Wall Street conference. I do not know if you are familiar with it, but it is a huge conference in the United States that they have every year. They had about 1,000 veterans and placed about 150 that very day. They have seminars all day on what the top corporations in America are doing. One thing they talked about was the challenge of getting private sector human resources people to understand that what you have in front of you, if you have an ex-military member, is exactly what you are looking for. They spend all of their time doing the comparables and talking about how a sergeant might have 15, 20 or 30 people under their control. They have a good budget. They manage millions of dollars worth of equipment. It is those kinds of conversations that you have to have to get some kind of equivalency going in their minds. The best way that we know to do that is face to face — getting them out to the bases and on the navy ships, talking to the personnel and to leadership and beginning to see that the leadership and the technical skills are there and that these are the type of people that we are looking for.

Senator Nolin: How do you organize the process of getting in touch with the military personnel, let us say in reserve regiments? How do you organize that, and how does it work? Do you knock on the door and say, "Here I am?"

Mr. Hart: It all kind of flows through the DND transition team. When we became official with them, they sent out a notice that the Canada Company Military Employment Transition Program is now available to transitioning members. If you are asking how Canadian Forces members find out about us, it is through the DND transition team. It is a good question, though, because one of the concerns that was originally expressed to us — and I do not understand it, but I think that it happens in the United States — is the idea of poaching. The last thing that the Canadian military wants is their best and brightest getting poached. We are not offering jobs. We are not a job board or a recruitment group at all; we are more of a bridge. You have to put your name into DND when you are getting ready to transition. At that point, you find out about Canada Company. Do we promote to the regiments? Yes, we do unofficially through the honorary colonels and our travels around the country, but, officially, it comes from the DND transition team.

The Chair: Before the second round, I wish to ask the following clarification questions: To Mr. McCarthy, that second ship that you produced for the Coast Guard is named Caporal Kaeble. He was from the lower St. Lawrence and won a Victoria Cross in World War I as a Van Doo. It was a fine initiative by the government to call those ships after Victoria Cross winners.

You spent a fair amount time telling us what is coming down the road, and I know that it was not for publicity but for our information on the scale that you are preparing to work to. Your workforce will expand significantly.

The question that I am still left with is this: If you know that you are going to be building a lot of military ships and Coast Guard ships like the icebreakers and so on, it would seem to me that you would be engaged, in a far more deliberate fashion, with community colleges, focusing on military members, and veterans in particular, who are trying to get a better education and do not have a full program from VAC to subsidize them so that they could become your preferred employees. In fact, knowing that a whole variety of skill sets are needed, I would think that you would be very keen on going after those who are still serving, some who are getting out and particularly those who might be injured to be an overt primary expression of your HR policy.

Why has the company not simply come out with that right from the start? You have been at it since 2011. Why has that not been much more deliberate?

Mr. McCarthy: We are just putting together our plans now. We are putting our recruitment plans in place. We are continuing to go through the boom and bust cycles that we typically have here in shipbuilding. One of the benefits of moving to NSPS and that program is that it will stabilize the workforce somewhat. We are still in a situation where our workforce varies week to week. There are layoffs and that sort of things, and that is the boom and bust cycle of project- based work. Knowing that we are coming into a steadier stream of work, we are just in the process of building these plans and programs.

We are big supporters of the military, and we have a number of people in our organization working with the military. In terms of developing deliberate plans, they are just under way and no doubt will be a key part of our plan going forward.

The Chair: Certainly, we want to know whether the industrial world is actually targeting these potential employees, who have a whole range of skills. Our veterans have already paid the price, and some of them are injured. Even if you meet the human rights criteria for hiring injured personnel, it would seem that they would come to the top of the list for an industry that is very much a part of the Canadian military industrial complex. Can you tell us whether a firm the size of yours would articulate this and use this as an example for others?

Mr. McCarthy: We will certainly follow up and include that group as part of our plans. Again, we have been open to partnerships, et cetera, with the military. We have not been able to outline any formal programs in place, but I do not think that should take away from the support that the Irving Group has for the military and their families generally. In response to your question, yes, that will certainly be part of our recruitment strategy going forward.

The Chair: Remember that you will be big into the megabucks compared to many other companies that have already demonstrated that. We are looking to you as an example, in particular in the Maritimes where so many veterans are returning home from serving in all three services.

What are the criteria for entering your apprentice program? Can a naval person apply to your apprentice program? Does he or she have to be hired first or have a certain level of qualification?

Mr. McCarthy: They have to be part of the Nova Scotia Community College's program and qualified to go through that. That is where they receive their classroom work, while their on-the-job training is done with Irving Shipbuilding.

The Chair: Helping them with financing through a subsidy to go through that program might be an angle to pursue. Thank you very much.

Mr. Hart, you have given us quite an extensive amount of information on what you guys are doing. However, you did not give me any numbers, except for the fact that we have an attrition rate in the forces of about 6,000 per year, on average. As well, an extensive number of veterans are both serving and out. What is the scale so far of candidates that you have been working with? How many files are you working on?

Mr. Hart: In terms of how many we are working with at this time point, it is in the dozens for the first couple of months. Part of the reason is that it takes more than a quick phone call. For example, Mr. Shawn Thompson has been working with three dozen members. On average, he will make at least three to four phone calls to those individuals, meet with them in person and make phone calls on their behalf to corporations. It is very high touch at this point. That is why I said that we are quickly scaling up our team. Currently, we have one person, which is not appropriate; so we are hiring a second person. Once we get the regional reps in place, we will be able to turn those dozens into hundreds. Will the Military Employment Transition Program be able to place 80 per cent of those individuals? It will not happen.

Another part is that there is an expectation piece that must happen on the military side as well. We have found jobs in a few instances for Canadian Forces members. Perhaps they were not the right fit, but it seemed that the expectation was, perhaps, a bit higher than the reality. We are facing all those different things.

Mr. Thompson has a military background so he was very aware when we started that if you do not get the buy-in and the awareness of the members of a program like this, then the program has no value. He spent the last three or four months traveling across Canada to speak and present at seminars. That was the best way to come face to face with the highest number of transitioning Canadian Forces members in one room. His total presentation of two to three hours was given to just under 1,000 members face to face over the last couple of months.

The Chair: Is it a funding exercise still or is it simply a case of being able to get the thing off the ground?

Mr. Hart: We have the capacity to grow quickly. One of the nice things about working with our membership is that these are the most senior business people in the country. We do not have to tell them what to do and how to do it. We just have to put the challenge out and give them the parameters and objectives; and they will run with it.

The next step in our acceleration of this program is to do more than simply go to our members as employer partners. I will share some information openly with you. Our budget is about $600,000 a year for travel, staff and everything else. It is a very cost-efficient budget for a five-year program that is well within our membership base in terms of the fundraising — we just have to get out there and do it. That is the phase we are at. We are hopeful that we can raise that money. We prefer to generate all our funding from the private sector because it helps everyone here and keeps it working well. That is our approach.

The Chair: What are you doing to convince unions that military people can work in a union, which is a completely foreign culture to them?

Mr. Hart: We have not gone there yet. I wonder if Helmets to Hardhats Canada might take a better approach because it is a union-based organization. That is the way we are going in that area.

Senator Day: I have a couple of questions to clarify your initiative. One is with respect to the priority hiring. Mr. Hart, you said that you are hoping to build up a stable of 300 companies. The federal government has passed legislation. All else being equal, in recognition of the person's service to Canada, an ex-military will be given priority in hiring.

We have been talking about trying to adjust the military qualifications so that they fit the private sector and can compete evenly. I am looking for a notch above that in terms of military personnel so that, all else being equal, the military person would be given priority. Do you have that in your mix? Are you discussing that?

Mr. Hart: Yes, we do in the sense that all the organizations we work with — about 80 per cent at least — are top downs. That means we have the initial conversation with the CEO, even at the board level, and they make a commitment as an organization. It then filters down to the hiring line. The interesting challenge is that a human resources department can make recommendations but the department heads do the actual hiring. What they have done in the United States would be wonderful here, but it has taken a long time: The senior management team has said to those people that if by hiring someone different than they would normally hire, in this case military, and things do not work out exactly as they had hoped in the first year, then they will not penalize them for that. It is something that they are trying. We know from past experience that it will be successful, but penalties need to be removed from trying something new. Essentially, for many of these folks who have not worked with a lot of military, it is a case of trying something new.

We could have that conversation. It is a pretty major thing in a corporation to make such a philosophical change given that they are so performance-driven. In this one case, we are saying that we will give you a year to try to work with Canadian Forces personnel. We all know it will work out, but if it does not, you will not be personally penalized financially. That is when you start to soar — when you remove all the risk from the various people on the corporate side.

Senator Day: Are you suggesting that there is a government program that might help to encourage or facilitate that?

Mr. Hart: Is there not a co-op program? A DND transition team mentioned a co-op program offering six months of funding in certain situations.

Senator Day: It is under the Employment Insurance scheme.

Mr. Hart: For us to have a better understanding of such a program would be brilliant because that basically would eliminate the risk and give these people six months to show what they are made of, which, I am sure, is all they need. It would be interesting to learn more about that.

Senator Day: We have had this discussion on record, so we will be thinking about that.

The other area I wanted you to talk about is whether you have any anecdotal information. Are you building up a file? In talking to these 300 companies at the upper level, do you see whether they have a general impression of how military employees fit in and how well they do? Do you have any of that?

Mr. Hart: I would say there is a lot of education to be done there. Some of the bigger companies, probably, depending on the sector, are more aware. I know that we are about to do a lot of work with oil and gas in Alberta. We have about 30 members in our chapter outside there. There is a familiarity out there because a lot of Canadian Forces members, when they transition out, go into that field. There are others in the financial sector and some of the other organizations we work with. There is a huge educational curve there.

The good news is that the willingness and desire are there to make this work. There is a feeling that we want to support those who have supported us and have made this sacrifice for us. That part is great. We just need some successes, which we are starting to get, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is education. It is educating the corporate folks.

Senator Day: Mr. McCarthy, could you comment on either or both of those?

Mr. McCarthy: The only comment I have is that transitioning or having military or ex-military military work for an organization is not a tough sell for many companies. Based on the skills and the experience and what they bring to the job, most organizations would be open or very open to bringing them on as part of their company. I do not think it is something that necessarily has to be sold, not to say that employers would not be supportive or anything like that, but military personnel have a lot to offer in terms of their background, experience and training. In our experience, they fit in well in our organization, so we have not seen issues there.

The Chair: Senator Day, if you do not mind?

Senator Day: I do not mind. I wanted to ask about the other priority hiring, and I do not think they have the programs.

The Chair: Thank you, senator.

Senator Wallin: I want to make a final comment here. Please do not get the impression that we somehow think that this is your responsibility and that you have to do this. We are very appreciative that, as private citizens and corporate leaders, you have stood up. You have put your time and money on the line. We are not asking for quotas or forced employment, because that has negative consequences. However, I am interested in the flip side. We have to go back to the military because we have heard referenced all the time the importance of managing the expectations inside the military. These folks went in at a young age and their careers and futures were planned and mapped out for them. They then may think that is how it will work in the civilian world, and it does not and you have to manage that. Can you be blunt? Do you say those things to folks?

Mr. Hart: Our projects director certainly does. He is ex-military, so he has absolutely no problem doing that.

I would pose an interesting question. We are all willing to step up, but whose responsibility is that? I think it is a shared responsibility. It would be nice if somewhere before they leave the military someone sits down and says, "Guys, gals, this is the reality." I know there are different programs that have tried to do that, but reality comes up quickly on the other side. It is a shared effort of expectation management.

Senator Wallin: It is true of any profession. Kids come out of university and think that there should be jobs there and that kind of stuff. Maybe we can suggest looking at it from that vantage point next time.

The Chair: I do not want to give the impression either that we have finalized what the report may say, because some of us may think that there is a heavy burden on Canadian industry also with regard to those who are protecting Canadian industry from threats, and it may be that part of the job is also paying into supporting those who have given to go out there and protect us and provide the opportunity for the industry to thrive.

Thank you, Mr. Hart, for your efforts with regard to your CEO and his continued effort, and thank you for helping the family support centres extensively. Mr. McCarthy, thank you. I believe we understood well that you said, in support of the reservists, you do support protecting reservists' jobs if they go off on tours for extended periods of time; is that correct?

Mr. McCarthy: Yes, sir.

The Chair: Good. Thank you very much for that. That is most appreciated.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. This session is closed.

(The committee adjourned.)

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