1. Irving and unpaid work terms: an exchange
Last week, I got an email from a Nova Scotia Community College student expressing concern about “unpaid work terms” being offered to NSCC students through Irving Shipbuilding. I asked the student to send me the relevant material, and handed it all over to reporter Michael Gorman. His resulting article was delayed for a few days because he had trouble hearing back from Irving.
I published the article Monday under the headline “Irving Shipbuilding wants people to work for free.” The article is factually correct. As usual, Gorman got a wide range of sources and gave the company the opportunity to comment.
But then I heard from Mary Keith, a spokesperson at Irving, who sent the following email:
We are asking for an immediate correction to the false headline and related conclusion in the recent Halifax Examiner story regarding Irving Shipbuilding – “Irving Shipbuilding wants people to work for free”.
My email to Mr. Gorman was clear – students “watch and learn” in full compliance with the NSCC placement guidelines. Contrary to the article, the students are not “working for free” because they are not employees, not qualified and therefore not active in shipbuilding at our site.
While the article singled out Irving Shipbuilding, the student placement is a requirement for graduation from most NSCC programs with many industry participants. ISI invests in the students by providing dedicated mentors who commit significant hours to each student’s learning experience and development. This is in addition to significant annual funding for the duration of the shipbuilding contract to support scholarships and other student development opportunities.
To be very clear, our company provides paid work terms to those students who are actively involved in projects and production. This would include 10 current students on paid four month work terms. These students are being paid an average of $21.49 per hour.
Keith had cc’ed her email to Gorman, who told me:
To her point about some students being paid, I asked specifically about the concern of students not being paid and she did not address it. Just don’t want you thinking I purposely left out information.
I replied to Keith, as follows:
The email sent to students specifies that they are applying for an “unpaid work term.” Is your position that an “unpaid work term” entails no work? Then why call it an “unpaid work term”?
I note also that students who apply are to address their envelope to Nicki Taylor, NSCC SIS Work Experience Coordinator, and that the application is handled by Bilynda Whiting, of the Student Employment department.
Is it your position that students applying for an “unpaid work term” through the “Work Experience Coordinator,” and via the Employment department won’t actually be working? [emphasis in original]
The email follows,
2016 Unpaid Work Terms at Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
Irving Shipbuilding Inc. (ISI) is currently encouraging NSCC students, from any/all educational fields, to submit their application to be considered for an exciting unpaid work term opportunity. All interested students must complete the attached Student Identification Page and Controlled Goods Application and submit it along with a current resume and the Student Request Form. ISI has an intensive security clearance process, so it is necessary to submit all documents.
If you would like to be considered for a potential opportunity, it is important that you follow the procedure stated below as ISI will not be accepting individual calls or applications from students. NSCC is collecting applications from all interested students and then will be forwarding them on to ISI personnel for consideration.
Step-by-Step Application Instructions:
1. Complete the attached Controlled Goods Clearance Application form, Applicant Summary Cover Page, CISD Security Clearance, and Consent to Release Personal Information Form and place, along with a current resume and the Student Request form, in a sealed envelope.
2. The envelope needs to be marked as follows: “Attention Nicki Taylor, NSCC ISI Work Experience Coordinator, Shelburne Campus”.
3. Also include: your name and contact information (telephone number, e-mail address and campus name/address) clearly marked. For reasons of confidentiality, NSCC is not allowed to open applications so please be sure to clearly identify your contact information on the envelope.
4. Submit your envelope to: Bilynda Whiting, Coordinator Student Employment and Retention, AVC/Middleton/COGS. It will then be forwarded on to ISI for review and consideration.
5. Deadline for Submissions – NO LATER than February 26th
If you have any questions regarding the process, please feel free to contact Nicki Taylor at 902-875-8639, or by e-mail at [email protected]
By copy of this email, perhaps Stacey can assist with NSCC terms.
I had no idea who Stacey was, but while I waited for her response, I got an email from a NSCC student I’ll call Buddy:
I am reaching out to you today after reading your article about the Halifax ship yards wanting people to work for free.
I take the pipe trades course at the NSCC IT campus in Halifax. It is a requirement for us to pass our course, to go on a 5 week, unpaid work term before the end of our last semester. If we do not complete this, we do not pass!
The ship yards has been a regular participant in accepting a few students each year and afterward, the students are usually hired on. This is a very very great thing for those fortunate students as it is a job!!!! Jobs in nova Scotia are hard to come by these days, let alone one that pays top dollar for the trade.
This year, the ship yards reached out to the school asking for students to apply. It made the whole process easier and more streamlined for them and us.
I didn’t get s chance to read your whole article. Your website required me to sign up just to be able to read it…. I can only imagine this deters most potential readers which is a good thing because as a student who needs to get hired on at the ship yards after my 5 weeks of working for free, I don’t want anyone thinking this is as bad thing and making the ship yards revoke the 5 week work term.
Myself and many other students are depending on this awesome opportunity for our future and I deeply hope your article doesn’t stop it from happening.
Thanks for contacting me. I appreciate you telling me you found value in the program, and since you’ve gone through it, I have a question.
Can you tell me what you actually did through the unpaid work term? I mean, did you, well, work, or did you just watch other people work?
I see it like this… if the work term was valuable, it would mean hands-on work, gaining experience, learning how to do stuff so you can take those learned skills into the next stage of your career. In the newspaper business, for instance, students who intern with papers have to go out and do real work — they interview people, they write articles, like that. Sure, they have bosses (editors) who oversee their work, but they are doing hands-on stuff that brings value to the company. Everyone wins.
Now, it’s possible that I would have an intern follow me around and watch me work, but I really don’t see the value in that. Heck, they could read about that, without even coming into the office. In your case, as someone who wants to be a pipe fitter, I guess you could watch YouTube videos about pipe fitting all day, or follow around a pipe fitter at Irving, but is that really learning anything? I would hope that you would get some hands-on experience, doing real work that brings real value to the company. Then there would be a trade-off: you do work for the company, but you also learn something that could help further your career.
So my question to you is: Which is it? Did you do real work that will help you in your future career, or did you just watch other people do work?
After you finished your work term, could you go to a prospective employer, even Irving, and say, “I got my hands dirty and learned how to do stuff by actually doing stuff, and that’s why you should hire me,” or do you say to that prospective employer, “oh, yea, i watched other people work, so I think I can probably figure it out”? Which is it?
I’d really like to better understand this. Did the Iriving job term teach your real stuff, or did you just watch other people doing real stuff?
All the best,
Thanks for responding so quickly.
I haven’t graduated yet so I have not done a work term. I might not have made that clear. Sorry.
I am hoping to do my work term with the ship yards this coming April.
I did a 1 week term with a private plumbing company last year in October and got to do everything an apprentice would do. So did all of my classmates, with there respective placements. Which means we worked and got our hands dirty.
We have to find these placements on our own and we are insured through the school in order to promote “getting our hands dirty “.
I would hope that Irving would let us work for those 5 weeks under a journeyman but even if they didn’t, it would be beneficial to see how the trades function “in the real world “. Safety, work procedures, pecking order, etc… These are all things that can be learned while shadowing.
Our hands-on experience comes from our shop time in school (3 hrs a day) every day. We build mock bathrooms and boilers and many other things to industry standards.
So, to answer your question: I’m sorry but I have not done a work term with Irving, but when I do, regardless if I am shadowing or working, it would be very valuable and I would be very disappointed if Irving did not offer us the chance to be placed there for the five weeks.
After my exchange with Buddy, I received this email from Stacey Baillie, a communications, er, communicator with NSCC:
Mary Keith shared an NSCC email communication which is one of the sources quoted in the Halifax Examiner story about work terms. Please allow me to provide some context related to this email and perhaps clarify a couple of questions it has raised for you.
Every year, our Academic Chairs, Faculty and members of our Student Services teams (including Coordinators of Student Retention and Employment – CSRE’s) work together to support students in finding applied learning opportunities. The email being quoted is an example of our Student Services team’s efforts to coordinate a large volume of student applications for opportunities with large organizations. This coordination is a service provided to large businesses, like Irving, who support many students every year. The email creates a single point of contact, improving service to both our students and businesses. The reference to an “NSCC ISI Work Experience Coordinator” is an unofficial term used by a CSRE to help students better understand the coordination process. They would use the same unofficial term for another large business.
Our Student Services teams also support students with post-program employment. Providing advice and guidance on resume writing , as well as application and hiring processes.
The College is grateful to all businesses and organizations, large, medium and small – non-profit, for-profit and not-for-profit – who, every year, provide thousands of safe, relevant experiential learning opportunities that help make our grads career-ready. Irving is an excellent example of this partnership. In addition, Irving Shipbuilding supported a dozen students entering shipbuilding-related trades this past fall with the first-ever Irving Shipbuilding Centre of Excellence bursaries. The $3,130 bursaries cover 100 percent of tuition costs for diploma programs related to the shipbuilding sector and are renewable for the second year of a two-year program based on student performance. The bursaries will be offered again in 2017 through the NSCC Foundation.
I hope this is helpful.
Well, Stacey, that’s not helpful at all, although I do admire how you shifted the pea from under the “unpaid work term” shell to the “bursaries” shell; good job, I’m sure you’ll go far in the government bullshit factory.
However, I still don’t know if an “unpaid work term” involves actual work or not, or what exactly the benefit to the student, or to Irving, is.
This feels like a gigantic scam, with each participant scamming each other, and the whole process undermining the English language and what used to be commonly understood definitions for “work” and “education.”
On Irving’s side, I’ll take Mary Keith’s word for it that students in the program are “not active in shipbuilding at our site,” but I have to wonder what the point of it is for the company, especially when it agreed to accept the students into the site under the rubric “unpaid work term.”
As for NSCC, is it selling a false good? Are students being told they’ll get “work” experience, when in reality they’ll just be standing around watching other people work? Communications pea-shuffling aside, it sure sounds like it.
And then there are the students. Buddy’s email is distressing — he is so desperate to find future employment that he is willing to swallow whatever communications bullshit comes his way to get there. It really doesn’t matter to him whether there’s actual work involved in the “unpaid work term” or not; he knows he just has to play the game to get the certificate so he can one day get a job.
I can’t help but think there’s a gigantic shifting of responsibility for telling the truth: Irving passes it on to NSCC, which in turn passes it on to the students, who then in turn are expected, in the best spirit of Orwell’s doublethink, to tell future prospective employers that they have work experience in the unpaid work term that didn’t involve any actual work. Maybe that’s triplethink.
Here’s the thing: Irving wants me to “correct” the headline that “Irving Shipbuilding wants people to work for free,” but if I say that headline is incorrect, aren’t I also in fact implicitly saying that NSCC’s entire “unpaid work term” process is a gigantic lie to students?
Help me out here, peeps.
2. Water meters
This morning, Halifax Water issued a tender seeking a company that will be “changing out approximately 70,000 meters, electronic registers and water meters. In addition, it includes retrofitting approximately 13,000 existing meters and registers with AMI devices. Both will occur over a four year period.”
3. Yarmouth ferry
“The Nova Scotia government hasn’t ruled out pitching in money to help pay for a ferry that will be used to revive a service linking Yarmouth with Maine,” reports the Canadian Press. “Transport Minister Geoff MacLellan also says there is no deadline for Bay Ferries to acquire a ship, though he would like to see service start June 1.”
Wait a minute… no deadline? But, but, but…
The very same Canadian Press reported in October on the deal with Bay Ferries:
The company that was operating the ferry between Nova Scotia and Maine when it was axed in 2009 is poised to get another shot at establishing the money-losing service after a decision announced Thursday by the province.
Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said the government had entered into talks with Bay Ferries to take over the ferry run between Yarmouth and Portland.
MacLellan wouldn’t release any details about the contract talks, including the potential level of subsidy or whether Bay Ferries had secured the use of a vessel. He said the company would have 45 days to inform the government that they have secured a ship.
He said details about the contract would be released once negotiations were completed, although he said there was no deadline date.
Yes, that’s a bit confusing: Bay Ferries had 45 days to secure a ship, but there was no deadline for signing a contract. Still, everyone understood the “45 days” to refer to a time period starting at the time of the announcement in October. The article continues:
Progressive Conservative Chris d’Entremont, whose riding is in southwestern Nova Scotia, said Bay Ferries has proven to be a good operator of ferry services in the province.
However, he expressed some concern that the contract details are still under wraps, saying he wants details on things such as the type of ship and the amount of Nova Scotia vendor and employment content.
“I hope that 45 days is a maximum and that Bay Ferries can come back with a signed business plan in a shorter period of time,” said d’Entremont.
“The parking enforcement company that fired two of its employees accused of forging tickets in Halifax will not have its contract renewed at the end of March, according to city staff,” reports David Irish of the CBC:
The firm, Independent Security Services Atlantic, fired two of its employees in October. The company’s lawyer said they were writing hundreds of so-called phantom parking tickets while taking time off work.
About 2,200 tickets were either fabricated or used invalid licence plates. The tickets were never put on vehicles and were only written on out-of-province or out-of-country vehicles.
If these guys were wearing suits, we’d congratulate them for their disruptive innovation.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully yesterday ruled that Premier Stephen McNeil’s former chief of staff, Kirby McVicar, violated privacy rules when he discussed details of Andrew Younger’s medical history to reporters.
Additionally, reports Michael Gorman:
[Tully’s] report includes six recommendations that, when implemented, would “ensure government has established the foundation for a strong, modern privacy management program.” Tully notes that “significant work” is already underway to improve the program.
The recommendations include:
- Updating the personal services contract template to include specific references to and expectations of access and privacy laws as well as training.
- Breach notification.
- Make basic privacy training mandatory for all government employees.
- Appoint a chief privacy officer at the executive level.
Tully’s over-reaching proposals—to install a Chief Privacy Officer, subject every civil servant to special training in privacy protection, and generally ramp up government’s already excessive privacy policing—will do far more damage than McVicar’s one-off indiscretion.
I’ve seen the “privacy” exemption to the Freedom of Information Act taken to absurd extremes. The most egregious example is that government contracts with corporations, including the dollar amount and term of the contract, are withheld in the name of privacy. More generally, in Nova Scotia the privacy roadblock is thrown up where in other jurisdictions there is an information superhighway.
2. Cranky letter of the day
I would like to know who the “most seniors” are that will see a “slight increase “ in their Nova Scotia pharmacare fees.
Last year my wife and I paid fees of $424 each plus a co-pay of a $197 for a total of $1,045 for $657 worth of prescription medication.As you can see, that is $388 more than if we didn’t have pharmacare. Using their calculator (which is shown in the Post), next year we would pay fees of $886 each plus an approximate co-pay of $131 for a total of $1,903 for the same $657 of medication.
I fail to see the fairness in that.
Seniors, do your calculations and figure out how these “fair “ rates are to you. I’ll be looking for a different provider or pay out of pocket before I pay such ludicrous fees.
Premier Stephen McNeil, you should be ashamed.
Ray Stapleton, Ingonish Centre
Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — For “future right-of-way requirements,” the city wants to buy the Always & Forever Bridal store at 145 Main Street in Dartmouth. I’m envisioning much better dressed staff.
No public meetings.
Sexual Violence as an Act of War and Genocide (noon, Mona Campbell Building, Room 2107) — Dorota Glowacka, from King’s College, will speak.
Marine microbes (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Erin Bertrand will speak on “Quantitative Mass Spectrometry-based Proteomic Inquiries into the Lives of Marine Microbes.” BYOMM.
Unsettling Anticommunism (3:30pm, Marion McCain Building, room 1170) — John Munro, from Saint Mary’s, will speak.
European Inequality (3:30pm, Mona Campbell 1108) — Andrea Brandolini, from the Bank of Italy, will speak.
Green infrastructure & sustainability (11:30am, Loyola Building, Room 282) — Jeremy Lundholm will speak.
In the harbour
Ningbo Express, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from Norfolk; sails to sea this afternoon
Dinkeldiep, ro-ro cargo, Saint-Pierre to Pier 42, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Gotland Carolina, oil tanker, Montreal to anchor, then sails to sea
Tongala sails to sea
The Spanish warship Patino is in port today. The Patino is perhaps best known for being attacked by pirates; I’m happy to report the Spaniards easily defeated the pirates.
Examineradio, episode #48 will be published this afternoon.