Nfld. & Labrador

Looking for an ocean-connected career? This company says there's a huge demand in shipbuilding

Jane Adey's latest installment in our series called The Fix looks at job opportunities in the shipbuilding industry.

Genoa Design offers job advice and tips from its entrepreneurial journey

Coming from the shipbuilding town of Marystown, Shyla Penney now designs mechanical systems on board huge vessels. (Jane Adey/CBC)

After Leonard Pecore finished his program in naval architecture years ago, he could have followed the industry trend and moved to the United States.

There were certainly lots of opportunities waiting there.

"It just did not seem nearly as attractive as staying home … and trying to accomplish something here," recalled Pecore.

So, instead of heading south, Pecore founded Genoa Design International in 1995 in Newfoundland and Labrador. He was its sole employee.

Leonard Pecore founded Genoa Design in 1995 instead of moving to the U.S. where there were many opportunities in the shipbuilding industry. (Submitted by Genoa Design)

Today, Genoa employs 115 people and has offices in Mount Pearl, Vancouver and New Orleans. This year, because of a growing demand in shipbuilding, the company expects a 20-50 per cent increase in activity.

"There's so much we can do right here from Newfoundland to serve the rest of the world and really there are no boundaries on our growth," said Gina Pecore, CEO of Genoa Design.

Founder and president, Leonard Pecore, is her husband.

The service Genoa Design provides lands right in the middle of the shipbuilding process.

Engineering firms come up with a concept for a vessel and submit their engineering concepts to Genoa. It then develops the working drawings and a 3D model of the ship to deliver to the shipyard where the boat is built.

Genoa's project list is impressive, from the Staten Island Ferries in New York to Canadian icebreakers and barges on the Mississippi River.

Many of their employees are Marine Institute graduates who've done marine engineering systems design or naval architecture. Half of Genoa's staff is younger than 35 years.

Genoa's project manager Shawn Morgan says young people in this province looking for a career should consider getting in on the industry.

Sean Morgan is project manager at Genoa Design. He sees a bright future in the shipbuilding industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted by Genoa Design)

"This is an industry in a significant amount of growth, not just provincially but nationally and internationally … we just can't get our hands on enough designers. It's a real problem and it's not just a big problem we've got at Genoa, but it's across the country," explained Morgan.

So what has created this recent demand?

It's all about timing. There was a big ship building boom around the world 40 to 60 years ago. Many of those ships are now nearing the end of their lifespans.

Vessels can only be refurbished so many times before they need to be replaced. The demand is expected to go on for the next 30 to 40 years.

That's great news for Shyla Penney. She's 26 years old and already a technical lead at Genoa.

With the click of a mouse, she spins a colourful 3D model on her computer screen of a huge vessel she's working on.

Shyla Penney is a technical lead at Genoa Design International. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Penney designs the mechanical systems onboard the vessel.

"This is cooling water for the engine. These four pipes you see here, I make sure everything gets from point A to point B in a clean way," said Penney.

When both her parents worked at the shipyard in Marystown talk about shipbuilding was everyday dinner conversation at their home.

She says the career she chose has been rewarding.

"I worked on an offshore fisheries supply vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard. I started that one through our 3D model; brought it to production design drawings. I got to watch it get built in Vancouver while I was there," recalled Penney.

"So that was amazing for me to see something from start to finish like that."

I was employee number 30. We've grown to over 115 as of today and it's nice to see that growth happen here in little Newfoundland.- Shyla Penney

Equally rewarding for Penney is doing the work at home, in Newfoundland.

"When I started, I think I was employee number 30. We've grown to over 115 as of today and it's nice to see that growth happen here in little Newfoundland, for sure."

President Leonard Pecore's risk more than two decades ago is paying off for him and his employees.

"The original intent was why should I have to pack up and move my family to the United States in order to earn a living when I can conduct that work right here in Newfoundland and Labrador … and stay amongst family and stay where we belong."

Newfoundland and Labrador could benefit from more people like the Pecores when it comes to entrepreneurship. So, how do they think this province can cultivate more business start ups?

Leonard Pecore says what he's learned about business over the years is that entrepreneurs have to be prepared to give up control.

Don't … assume that you're going to be the president and the CEO … that you're going to be the one building the thing. Pass other components to people to do it really well.- Leonard Pecore

He recommends building a team instead of taking on all the responsibility.

"Don't automatically assume that you're going to be the president and the CEO … that you're going to be the one building the thing. Pass other components to people to do it really well."

CEO Gina Pecore says entrepreneurship is about seeing challenges as opportunities, about identifying problems and developing solutions.

She also believes we need to push our doors wide open to newcomers in Newfoundland and Labrador to grow our population.

"When immigrants come in … they come from countries where business is just the way things are done. They're good at running them and we have to create the right environment for them," she said.

Gina Pecore is CEO of Genoa Design International based in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted by Genoa Design)

Negative attitudes can derail people with good ideas, according to Pecore.

"Instead of beginning with why not... let's start with why it can happen."

She adds that risk takers will follow through on ideas if they feel more self-assured.

"We need to have that confidence that we do measure up to the rest of the world and we are doing great things right here."

Both Pecores encourage other successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in the community to speak about their experiences.  

"We've been in business for 23 years and we haven't talked a heck of a lot about it. It's our responsibility to share that story so that others may be motivated to do the same," she said.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Jane Adey

CBC News

Jane Adey hosts CBC Radio's The Broadcast, and has worked for many other CBC programs, including Here & Now, Land & Sea and On The Go.