WIPSI – Providing Opportunity for Business and Workforce Growth

WIPSI – Providing Opportunity for Business and Workforce Growth

Joe Hood is a specialist in a niche field – underwater acoustic analysis. He spent 15 years in the military honing his craft and another four years as Acoustic Program Manager and Engineer before striking out on his own.

In 2006, Hood founded Akoostix Inc., As president officer he was responsible for management, business development, and technological vision. By 2011 those tasks were too much for Hood to take on alone, particularly if he wanted to grow his company beyond a “niche R & D support” company for the defence industry.

“I needed to be the face of the company, talk to people, generate new business, and convince clients that we can deliver on more challenging projects. Managing this workload on top of growing the business was becoming overwhelming,” said Hood.

But then, Hood got wind of the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive Program (WIPSI) at an Aerospace and Defence Industry Association of Nova Scotia (ADIANS) event. WIPSI is offered through the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education and provides funding for training to companies that are permanently located in Nova Scotia.

With the help of WIPSI, Hood was able to provide two employees with training in underwater acoustics and sonar systems. He brought in a trainer to train his entire staff in technical writing, and provided his staff with project management training.

“If you were to look out there and see how to build the best workforce, I’m sure you’d find that you need employees who are motivated to succeed, and a willingness on the part of the employer to present them with opportunities for growth, including through structured training,” said Hood.

Hood said that as a small company, providing training for employees is a struggle. It takes time to develop training and, when the training is developed by others, it can be expensive. He sees WIPSI as a “shared risk and reward.”  “The company makes an investment [in the employee], the employee makes an investment by focusing their energy and, in these cases, the government is also making an investment,” said Hood.

As a result of training his company was also able to get ISO 9001 certification, which opened the doors to new clients such as Shell Canada and SCHOTTEL, a leader in the tidal power industry. Akoostix’s revenue more than doubled between 2011 and 2014, a fact that Hood also attributes to the training he and his employees received.

It also positioned Akoostix “to the point where it was attractive enough to be acquired and create a more competitive Nova Scotian company.” GeoSpectrum Technologies purchased Akoostix in 2014 and Hood is now the company’s software product manager.

Before the purchase, GeoSpectrum focused on “the wet end – things that go in the water” and Akoostix focused on “the dry end – the processing end.” Together they provide a complete solution.

“As a team we’re more competitive in the international marketplace,” said Hood. “We can provide more complete solutions and it’s easier for customers to buy a complete solution than a partial one.”

Hood is convinced that when his company succeeds, the province of Nova Scotia succeeds as well. “People are always going to have the option to leave and go elsewhere, but if you provide them with opportunities for growth and training, you have a much higher probability that they’re going to stay with you.”

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