The ocean is the foundation of life on our planet. What’s more, the sustainable ocean-based economy, also known as the “blue economy,” is expected to provide an annual economic value of approximately $3 trillion USD by 2030, according to a new OECD report.
At the heart of the ocean ecosystem is the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), a global network of 2000-plus ocean leaders, government officials, and venture capitalists. This industrial growth hub is spurring growing interest in ocean-related employment among a wide variety of people, from students to established professionals seeking to pivot to a new career.
Tanya Lush, the Director of Workforce Development for COVE (located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia), happens to be an example of the increasingly diverse workforce in ocean-related fields. Her fascination with the sea started years ago as a young girl growing up on the outskirts of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her father kept binoculars on the windowsill of their living room overlooking the Conception Bay. She recalls watching massive icebergs silently floating by in the spring and the cargo ships and fishing boats coming and going.
“All that action in the bay was entertainment for me,” she says. “I was very young, but it shaped me.”
Not surprisingly, after having worked all over the world, when offered to work for COVE, she jumped at the chance. Leading the Workforce Development program allows her to engage with youth, educators, mid-career and underrepresented workers to help them find opportunities in the ocean sector.
In her role with COVE, she is proud to be a part of this technology innovation hub. COVE is home to more than 60 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) developing various ocean technologies, from technologies that measure DNA in water to underwater robots (ROV’s) that inspect cables in the dark seabed depths off Canada’s coasts.
“Our companies are making connections across the global supply chain, developing enhanced technological advances, and have access to a robust workforce. From startups to well-established multinational organizations that have million-dollar deals,” she says.
The organization is a force in helping to shape the ocean sector in Nova Scotia, which employed over 25,000 people across approximately 5,700 sector firms in 2019.
COVE has been offering internships to students for about three years now. In 2020, it teamed up with ICTC to deliver WIL Digital to its network of SMEs. Last year, COVE placed ten work-integrated learning students with four participating companies. This summer, it placed 20 WIL Digital students with eight companies.
“We’ve doubled our intake to the internship program from year to year—which is impressive on its own. We’re also providing space for underrepresented people of colour in the ocean sector,” Lush says.
This didn’t happen by chance. It started with a keen awareness of equity, diversity, and inclusion issues, a concerted effort to attract youth from underrepresented groups, and an informed and inclusive recruitment process that encourages diversity among the students seeking work-integrated opportunities.
Ultimately these WIL Digital experiences will improve the chances that graduating students will secure full-time work related to the ocean.
“Our process was thoughtful and transparent to ensure that all people were included,” Lush says.
COVE also follows up with both WIL students and employers to better understand the program’s effectiveness and evolving career opportunities. Direct experience with companies in the ocean sector at COVE is an incredible advantage for these students. As a result, 80% of the participants of COVE’s 2021 Internship Program (which includes WIL Digital) have found an ocean-related role within one month of the program ending.
COVE is expected to reach new heights with its 2022 Internship Program by doubling placements to 40. This is due to the overwhelming response from participating companies that said they would take on work placement students again next summer.
For more information about WIL Digital, pls connect with ICTC’s WIL Digital team here.