It’s no secret the economy is in tough shape — especially in rural Nova Scotia where hundreds of people there are learning new skills to find work.

Corey Oickle has seen Nova Scotia's economic decline first hand after losing his job when one of the big employer’s in the area pulled out.

“I worked at Oakhill site for Bowater for 15 years,” he said.

The sawmill closed along with the big pulp mill leaving the married father of two unemployed and mulling the exodus out west.

“A lot of my coworkers went out there, a lot of people I know went out there,” said Oickle who is studying at the Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater to be an electrician.

“To have something substantial that I can maybe own, own my own business someday, just be my own person and look after myself — because if I go to another business, that business shuts down I’m back at square one again,” he said.

Oickle’s story is not unusual at the Lunenburg campus of NSCC in Bridgewater.

“I worked for almost seven years at blackberry,” said Mike LePage who is studying to be CAD technician.

“What I was doing with Blackberry there was no end product and what I plan to do now will result in something that is tangible,” he said.

Angela Conrad, a student studying diesel repair, used to work for a fashion designer.

“I plan on staying around here I plan on apprenticing as an industrial mechanic as millwright at a local business outside of the Bridgewater area,” she said.

Job stability is the goal of many at the college.  

Joshua Woods, 19, who is studying diesel repair said his family has struggled to maintain steady employment.

“I just want to be able to sustain a life, be able to buy a house, get a truck, have a family — you know that kind of traditional thing. I would just like to see a good steady job,” he said.

“When I come out I will be gung-ho to work. I want to go to work and I’m going to stay in the area. My wife and two kids are here and were staying,” said Oickle.