Shoring up new grads

Shoring up new grads

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Contributors: Emily Bednarz | Published: February 1, 2023

Image Credits: Ming's Photography

Ashored Inc. finds talent and success through Graduate to Opportunity program

A start-up in Bedford, a Vietnamese graduate, and a simple government program are helping to revolutionize Atlantic Canada’s fishing industry.

The company is Ashored Inc. — an ocean-tech firm five minutes up the road from the Bedford Basin. Ashored is developing solutions to environmental problems that have plagued the fishing industry for generations. A large part of their success has been the people they’ve hired — an intentionally diverse collection of expertise and perspectives that’s included recent graduates, like Cong Hai Nam Tu (Nam).

With the Graduate to Opportunity program, Ashored has been saving money as it strengthens its workforce.

About Ashored

Ross Arsenault, COO of Ashored, explains the company’s mission: “We focus on bringing sustainability-enabling technologies to address the ever-growing number of environmental and regulatory challenges facing the commercial fishing industry."

One challenge in the commercial fishing industry is whale entrapments. Current fishing practices involve tethering traps from the ocean floor to buoys on surface, and these tethers lead to marine animal entanglements. According to Ashored, 140,000 protected marine animals die entangled in fishing gear annually, and 83% of the North Atlantic Right Whale population show scars from fishing gear entanglements.

Another primary industry challenge Ashored tackles is lost, discarded, and abandoned fishing gear. According to Ashored, such gear results in 640,000 tonnes of ocean waste per year, making it the single largest contributing source to ocean pollution. Fishers also bear the costs (in time, money, and opportunity) of replacing lost gear.

To meet these challenges, Ashored began developing “rope on-command" technology in 2017. With input from fishers, Ashored created the Modular Ocean Based Instrument (MOBI), which keeps trap lines contained on the ocean floor until fishers return to the area to collect the gear. MOBIs trigger lines to release to the ocean surface when the vessel (equipped with MOBI Commander technology) arrives back in the area.

Ashored was incorporated in 2018, and the impact of their new technology is making waves. “Ashored’s rope-on-command system has transformed from a crude, time-based underwater rope and buoy release to an acoustically-activated release system controlled by Ashored’s gear management software,” says Arsenault. “We have also grown from a team of three to a team of 16.”

The GTO opportunity

Last year, Ashored sought to add to their growing team by creating a new, permanent role — the perfect opportunity to tap into the GTO program.

Arsenault explains that they were searching for someone who could blend into their multi-disciplinary team as well as independently tackle challenges in software development. “Nam checked these boxes perfectly and did so with a very positive and receptive attitude during the interview process,” says Arsenault.

Nam was not only well-suited to the role; as a new grad, he was the ideal candidate for the GTO program. “Nam was quickly approved as a recent graduate,” says Arsenault. “The application process was incredibly seamless, and the response times were always fast.”

The GTO program is available to small businesses, non-profits, start-ups, and social enterprises. The program reimburses 25% of the first-year salary and 12.5% in the second year for a new, permanent, full-time job paying at least $35,000. The incentive jumps to 35% if you hire an international graduate or someone who identifies as a member of a designated equity-deserving group. Applications are easy to complete and typically turnaround in less than a week.

More than 1000 employers in virtually every sector — from ocean tech, to law, to craft breweries — have hired close to 2,300 recent graduates with GTO so far. Employers who use the program love it (satisfaction rates in surveys top 90%), and the program creates meaningful impact by encouraging employers to hire grads for the long term.

Working with a new grad

It’s difficult to overstate the positive impact Nam has made at Ashored, thanks to the GTO program. “Within Nam’s first few days, he showed a clear dedication to delivering a great product experience through both his work ethic and frequent thoughtful questions,” says Arsenault.

At Ashored, Nam has taken the lead in developing an intuitive suite of software and hardware that tracks the location, inventory, connection, and ownership of a user’s fishing gear. “Nam is directly responsible for many of the major functionality and experience improvements to our ATLAS Application this year,” says Arsenault. “He has implemented features that have been in our pipeline since the company launched, growing the overall functionality of the app and introducing quick solutions to challenges that new customers identify.”

Nam recognizes the impact of his work on the application. “It is important that the app has a good user experience so we can sell our product,” he says. “I think I have been a great asset to Ashored, because I didn’t require a lot of training. With my attention to detail, the application is now in a better state, and we have received positive feedback from users.”

Arsenault notes that Nam has been essential to achieving project goals on strict timelines. “As a company with a heavy R&D focus up to this point, grant funding has been instrumental,” says Arsenault. “Nam helped us achieve functionality milestones that allowed us to begin commercially selling our products — milestones that will be necessary for the ropeless fishing industry to work at larger scale and in regulated waters.”

Embracing new perspectives

One benefit of hiring a new grad is the diverse and fresh perspectives it can add to a team, especially in an industry with deep roots. “Maritime industries are a part of Nova Scotian heritage, and so there are some insights and practices that are taken for granted,” says Arsenault. “Having people from different backgrounds on your team provides entirely different, but equally valid perspectives. When Nam joined the team, he had more to learn about commercial fishing than some employees who were raised in the Maritimes, but he also didn’t have any preconceived notions or discomfort in asking questions when he wasn’t certain. Nam can view many of the problems we address with a clean slate and a fresh perspective.”

Arsenault is quick to credit the GTO program for introducing Nam to Ashored. “I’m thankful to the GTO program for allowing us to bring Nam aboard the team earlier this year,” he says. “We also just welcomed another recent graduate to the team through the program. Overall, GTO required minimal paperwork and provided industry-agnostic funding to allow us to add two incredible full-time team members. We have nothing but positive things to say!”

The Ashored team has found resounding success through the GTO program, and so has Nam himself. “I have a great mentor, and I have learned a lot since I joined the company,” he says. “This is really valuable experience for my career — I have become more knowledgeable, and my skills have changed drastically compared to eight months ago. Everyone at Ashored is becoming an important part of my life. I feel lucky and grateful to be a part of this company.”

Learn more about Ashored Inc. at:

Get started with the Graduate to Opportunity program at:

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