On April 30, AIMS President Brian Lee Crowley was a guest speaker at the Workforce Strategy Forum put on by the Aerospace and Defence Industry Association of Nova Scotia to look at strategies to deal with the industry’s growing labour shortages. He began with a true story.

There is an aerospace engineer at the Pratt and Whitney plant at the Halifax airport. His son, as part of an elementary school project, was asked to write a short essay about a Nova Scotia industry of his choice. Because of his father’s work, he knew something about the aerospace industry, and so that’s what he wrote about. When he got his paper back, he had got a poor mark, and when he read the teacher’s comment she had written “You should know that we don’t have an aerospace industry in Nova Scotia. There were lots of real Nova Scotian industries you could have written about, such as the maple syrup industry.”

What is the subtext of this teacher’s comment, what is the self-understanding that it betrays? That we, Nova Scotians, as not urban, educated, technologically sophisticated, working year-round in high-end manufacturing in global industries. Instead we are characteristically rural, working in seasonal natural resource-based jobs with little value added, likely with too many people trying to live from the limited resources, and so we need nationally financed welfare programmes to top up our low incomes. But this very popular and widespread self-image has almost nothing to do with our reality — and yet we continue to make too many policy choices as if the teacher’s view, rather than the child’s, were true.

When we realise that opportunities are not limited, and don’t have to be parcelled out parsimoniously only to the locals, but instead see that opportunities are infinite and are limited only by our imagination and energy, then we will have created the climate of opportunity that makes business invest, workers work, immigrants come and our children stay. To read the entire talk to ADIANS, please click here.