June 29, 2023
Hailing from a family of pipefitters and shipyard workers, Rich Gill was destined to follow a similar path. He first started his career as a pipefitter at Seaspan a little over two decades ago. Since then, he has brought immense knowledge and guidance to Victoria Shipyards. We recently had a conversation with Rich to learn more about his career journey from pipefitter apprentice to his role today as Senior Manager of Operations at Victoria Shipyards.
Q: You’ve been working at Seaspan for 22 years now – how did you start your career?
I come from a family of pipefitters; my dad and both my grandfathers were shipyard workers at Point Hope and the dockyard. I also have two brothers who are pipefitters here in Victoria.
I started in April of 2001 as a Pipefitter Apprentice. From there, I slowly worked my way up, climbing the ladder. In 2006, I became a Chargehand for six months until I became the Senior Chargehand in early 2007. I stayed in that position for about ten years, then I was the Acting Production Manager for a year. In 2018, I became the Pipefitting Superintendent for a while and here I am now as the Senior Manager of Operations.
What does an average day look like for you in your current role at Victoria Shipyards?
As the Senior Manager of Operations, I work closely with the steel, rigging, pipe, and sheet metal departments. My job is to provide guidance and leadership to the superintendents in those roles and help them support the various projects in the area. This support ranges in the form of labour, resources, expertise, and more. Ensuring and maintaining safety when working with various stakeholders and projects is also a big part of what I do. In managing and supporting various superintendents and projects, mentorship plays a big part and mentoring our upcoming leaders at Victoria Shipyards is one of the highlights of my role.
What is the most exciting project that you’ve worked on at Victoria Shipyards?
I’m a ship repair person at heart; that’s what I did growing up. So, I’ve always loved the commercial projects. It’s exciting to see the progress of a project from the ground up, having been involved in the early discussions and then seeing the final product, for example.
The TOTE LNG project was also one of my favourites. I was the Production Manager for one of the phases and it was exciting and unique. We had so many skilled people and subcontractors, including pipefitters, who had never been on the West Coast before, let alone on a ship. That way, you meet so many different people from all over the world.
It’s working with all the talented people that adds meaning to the work we do every day. I think there’s a great workforce here. You get to work with all the various trade groups and meet new people through every project. There’s lots of talent and expertise, but the fun part is trying to overcome the challenge of how we work well with each other – problem solving and building teams. 22 years later at Victoria Shipyards says it all – it’s a great place to work and a big part of what makes it great is our team.
Any advice for people who are starting out or are considering a career in the trades?
Start networking and seeking out mentorship opportunities. Are you interested in welding? Connect with a welder and find people who are already in the trade. Start there. If you are starting out in trades, or even simply thinking of going in this path, know that there is a lot of on-the-job learning. The best way you can approach this is to show up, show interest, and work hard – it’s the simple things that make a big difference.