Sydney, NS, Nov.23, 2015… One of the largest contracts for the Maritime Link is for the transmission lines and recently Abengoa Transmission & Infrastructure, was awarded this contract by Emera NL. Last week Abengoa began hiring and the first hires included three local Aboriginals. They will work on assembling the large steel transmission towers as Powerline Labourers and Abengoa expects to hire many more as work ramps up.

Abengoa has established a work yard in Sydport to begin assembling the large steel transmission towers. This $200 million contract will see Abengo building 400 km of overhead transmission lines in Cape Breton and Newfoundland, all part of the Maritime Link. The work in Cape Breton includes erecting about 165 towers, each over 100 feet tall. At the peak of work, they expect to have 10 crews working, each with 10 workers.

Abengoa and the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office (MEBO) have built a strong working relationship over the past year. MEBO recruited local Aboriginals to take a 15 week Powerline Labourer Training program at Marconi Campus, NSCC. “Now we are hiring these graduates,” said Ignacio Saralegui, project manager with Abengoa Transmission & Infrastructure. One of the local Aboriginals hired by Abengoa is Jocelyn Marshall from Potlotek First Nation and she is shown working on the assembly of the steel towers at the Sydport yard.

In Cape Breton, the company will build 46 kilometres of high-voltage direct current transmission line from Point Aconi to the Woodbine substation and 41 kilometres of grounding line from the Woodbine converter station to Big Lorraine. The company said in a statement that for the whole contract, an average of 200 jobs will be created over the construction period and the project is expected to take roughly two years to complete.

 “We were approached by MEBO last year to help fill a need we have for skilled workers, and this relationship lead to us partnering with MEBO to train local Aboriginals to work for our company,” said Ignacio Saralegui.

Alex Paul, Executive Director at the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office, explained that part of MEBO’s success is how they engage many industry partners to understand their needs. “We aren’t expecting any one company to hire hundreds of Aboriginals. We have more long-term success by being more diversified and getting many companies to hire perhaps 3 or 4 Aboriginals. The numbers add up and we don’t have all our eggs in one basket.”

These companies or opportunities include those working on the highway construction on Route 4, those doing security work at Port Hawkesbury Paper, new workers at Cherubini Metal Works in Dartmouth, those at Flynn Canada and Irving Shipbuilding. Recently there were new hires with PowerTel, a company working for Abengoa on the Maritime Link.

MEBO recently partnered with Eskasoni to train people in tourism. They also worked with Membertou to help train individuals to work in their community on the many projects they have underway, including sidewalks, foundations etc. “For us, it is about helping Industry succeed, helping our communities succeed and preparing local aboriginals for new economic opportunities. We have a dedicated staff and we are proud of our success in helping industry engage Aboriginals,” said Alex Paul.

Construction of the Maritime Link will require hundreds of workers to build the various components over the next two years. This includes labourers, semi-skilled and skilled tradespeople. MEBO has been preparing for this opportunity for a couple of years, building relationships with several large companies that are bidding on contracts for the Maritime Link and working closely with the local unions. “Now we are seeing results,” said Alex Paul.

The Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office is located in Membertou and represents all five First Nation communities in Cape Breton (Unama’ki). MEBO has a training program that serves all 13 First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. MEBO builds relationships with industry, works to understand their needs and works to help fill those needs through training and support. MEBO is focused on large industry in Nova Scotia and seeks to maximize employment and business opportunities for the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.