Land, Sea and Air: Babcock’s Mission-Critical Momentum

Q+A with Babcock Canada

From delivering in-service support of the VICTORIA Class submarines to the Royal Canadian Navy and vital refits to our Coast Guard to providing aerial firefighting and air ambulance services, Babcock is a recognized leader in engineering support solutions ­in Canada and around the globe.

Babcock may have its headquarters in London, U.K., but the company’s impact is felt around the globe, including right here on South Vancouver Island. Backed by 125 years of expertise, Babcock provides vital services and mission-critical technology and support solutions for assets of national importance in the defence, civil and complex commercial domains.

A member of SIPP since 2020, Babcock collaborates closely with partners, customers and stakeholders in the Royal Canadian Navy, Department of National Defence, and Public Services & Procurement Canada to understand and adapt to Canada’s platform and capability needs and the Class program schedule and cost constraints.

Babcock Canada President Mike Whalley tells us about Babcock’s commitment to supporting the regions in which this major employer does business.

HMCS Chicoutimi was the first Victoria-Class Submarine to undergo a deep maintenance refit led by Babcock at Canada’s Esquimalt Graving Dock.

Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?

I believe strong business[es] and a strong and thriving local economy go hand in hand to help develop a sustainable blend of strong employment and a desirable lifestyle for the South Island. SIPP has demonstrated its ability to support this aim through innovative thinking, creative leadership and well-developed campaigns. I am delighted to be able to work with other like-minded business leaders to support and promote what SIPP stands for.

What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?

As one of Canada’s leading engineering companies, we have a constant and growing demand for engineers, scientists and technologists. And we are, of course, not alone in needing to attract and retain talented staff. So as a business community we need to promote the South Island to young professionals and their families as a safe and prosperous community, with a high standard of living, a focus on sustainability and, of course, an unrivalled work-life balance.

What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs and investment?

It almost goes without saying that we all know and believe that Victoria is the best place in Canada to live. But the challenge is to convince potential newcomers that it’s a great place to work and set up business as well. I believe the West Coast location close to the economic and technology hubs of Vancouver and Seattle, with excellent worldwide connections, first-class academic institutions and, of course, the great outdoor lifestyle makes this an ideal base for any business.

What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?

With new ways of distributed and remote working, improved IT connectivity and a renewed workplace culture I believe there is huge potential for employees to train, work and live on Vancouver Island while supporting colleagues and customers who could, quite literally, be anywhere in the world. We have certainly proved this to be the case with staff in Victoria supporting engineering projects across the whole of Canada, and even as far as Scotland.

What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?

We have nearly 300 highly qualified engineers, project managers, supply chain specialist, data scientists, accountants and a whole host more support staff who live and work right here in the South Island region. These dedicated professionals manage and deliver engineering and logistic support to Canada’s fleet of four submarines which undertake their multi-year deep maintenance and upgrade periods at the Esquimalt Graving Dock complex. Across Canada, amongst other things, Babcock also provides aerial firefighting and air ambulance services for the province of Manitoba.

Babcock employs over 300 engineers, specialists and support staff that work and reside in the South Island Region.

What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?

Overcoming the notion that Vancouver Island is a great place to go on vacation, to relocate to in the latter years of your career, or to retire to. We have so much more to offer than that — we just need to get the message out there and prove how successful businesses based here can be.

What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?

COVID-19 has affected us all in so many ways, and we all pray it will end soon. But the silver lining is that it has somewhat surprisingly catapulted us a decade forward in terms of workplace culture, values and operating models. I am excited about fully embracing this and giving all our employees greater choice in how they meet their own personal work-life balance needs. Our own surveys plus industry-wide research and anecdotes would indicate that we are not alone. I think the South Island lifestyle and culture are perfectly suited to embracing this renaissance in the way we work and play.

When you envision the South Island region in 2040 — what will have changed? What does our future look like?

I envisage huge growth in the tech sector, particularly renewables, oceanographic and sustainable technologies, and this in many ways will drive changes in the demographics and cultural diversity of the South Island. I also expect many people will choose to live here for family and lifestyle reasons first — and to make work fit around that. So their colleagues and clients will often be distributed across Canada and the world. I think we will also find the motivation and means to establish even stronger transport links with the Mainland and other cities.