Tidewater Community College Lauds Congressional Effort to Enhance Maritime and Energy Education
HAMPTON ROADS, VA – A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives that would boost funding for maritime and energy workforce education is receiving a thumbs-up from Tidewater Community College (TCC).
The “Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act” (H.R. 2923), which was introduced by a Texas congressman, is also receiving broad bipartisan support from the Hampton Roads delegation, including Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rep. Randy Forbes (VA-04), Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01), and Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02). All four have signed on as co-sponsors.
“From the Port of Virginia to commercial shipping to shipbuilding and ship repair, the maritime industry is critical to the Hampton Roads economy,” Scott says. “The Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Act will make sure that community colleges have the necessary resources to provide training for these high-skilled jobs.”
Forbes noted that not all education can happen in a classroom. “On-site technical training is invaluable in many industries, especially in the maritime and energy sectors — which is why establishing maritime workforce training Centers of Excellence and supporting colleges’ efforts to expand maritime and energy workforce training programs is so critical to our students' ability to compete and succeed,” he says.
Wittman said that workforce development strengthens American competitiveness in the global economy and provides rewarding careers to employees.
“Programs such as Centers of Excellence represent a great example of the benefits that can arise when industry and educational institutions work together in support of both students and the local economy,” he said. “I am proud to support this smart bill, one that will undoubtedly prove beneficial to students and the maritime industry in Virginia and around the nation.”
“The scores of waterways in Hampton Roads, and our robust port system, provide a unique economic advantage for our region, as well as flourishing demand for jobs in the maritime and energy industries,” Rigell says. “This important bill will grow and strengthen opportunities for the next generation of Americans and provide our students with the tools and training needed to be successful.”
TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, who recently visited Capitol Hill in support of the bill, said Hampton Roads employers are worried about filling shipyard and port jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers. “Our partners have told us over and over the skills they are seeking,” she says. “This bill would be good for business in our region, and it builds important infrastructure and capacity for our nation.”
The bill calls upon the Department of Energy to establish up to 10 “Centers of Excellence” at community colleges and other eligible institutions located in port regions that have established relationships with local industries and port authorities. The centers would each receive between $1 million and $1.5 million per grant to provide training related to maritime or energy transportation, logistics, supply chain management and shipbuilding and ship repair.
The funds would pay for faculty, facilities and equipment, as well as offer tuition reimbursement and job placement. Training for veterans is a particular focus of the legislation.
TCC, among a handful of community and technical colleges in the U.S. that provide maritime and energy workforce training, has been identified as a potential Center of Excellence in light of the growing capabilities of its career training programs. The college already hosts the Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center, the only National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education Center devoted to developing the maritime workforce.
TCC offers programs in many of the maritime and energy skills employers are seeking, including logistics, supply chain management, warehouse and distribution, welding, diesel and gasoline engines, alternative energies and industrial technologies.
“TCC has demonstrated its commitment to training the Hampton Roads workforce in these skills and, in particular, to serving our veterans,” Kolovani says.
She said TCC joins regional employers and organizations, including the Port of Virginia, Huntington Ingalls, Newport News Shipbuilding, Sumitomo Drive Technologies, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Ship Repair Association, and Navy League of the United States, in supporting H.R. 2923.