Valkyrie Enterprises, Inc., and Old Dominion University’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC) hosted a maritime in-service support round table at the VMASC facility.
Organizing the effort began when the Virginia Ship Repair Association (VSRA) received an inquiry in August 2019 from Dwayne MacLeod; Manager, Major Projects, Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). MacLeod and NSCC are developing maritime, in-service support training to support the Canadian Navy and wanted to connect with the Hampton Roads area. VSRA referred MacLeod to Ted Dennis, Valkyrie Enterprises’ Training Manager and Founder of Maritime Maintenance University (MMU). Dennis’ extensive expertise in the maritime trades training and his work to standardize maritime trades competencies through MMU was of interest to McLeod and NSCC.
After months of planning the round table was held in 2020 and attended by members of academia, industry, and local governments. The event provided an opportunity to share the challenges the maritime industry faces in relation to training, technology, credentialing, and recruiting. The goal of the meeting was to learn about the many programs available for maritime workforce training and create synergy for future collaboration. MacLeod also provide a presentation on Nova Scotia’s community college system; their maritime trades programs and the solutions sets they are enacting to solve maritime in-service support issues.
MacLeod described a familiar problem for the Hampton Roads area. While we are home to the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet and have numerous military personnel, who separate or retire from service, we continue to lack sufficient amounts of skilled trades persons to fulfill the growing maritime maintenance and repair needs. Like our Canadian counterparts, there is an overabundance of work to be done, and a limited number of qualified candidates available to complete the work. As an example, the VSRA Workload Capacity Survey from May 2018 indicated a local maritime workforce shortage of more than 3100 people and that number is expected to continue to grow over the next several years.
During the roundtable, many participants expressed their shared concern for the lack of maritime trades competency/credential standardization and the lack of affordability for small businesses to create or use the maritime trades training that is available.
“What I find troubling is that a Sailor can’t leave the Navy and walk across to the shipyard and get a job without having to go through more intensive training, simply because of the lack of standardization in training,” said Ted Dennis. He also elaborated to state “It is my opinion that neither the Navy nor industry can afford to build the necessary training independent of each other. We have to collaborate to achieve a culture of affordability.”
Dennis’ comments were reinforced by Rick Williams, with Auxiliary Systems, Inc. who stated “In our industry, we’re all over the place doing maintenance and we’ve lost the continuity that NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) used to control. We need a national standard.”
Dr. Corey McCray, Vice President of Workforce Solutions for Tidewater Community College added that Tidewater Community College has initiated an effort towards nationally recognized certifications. “At Tidewater Community College, we have moved directly to the alignment of national certifications for the very reasons you spoke of earlier; the whole idea is to align certifications so that the transient workforce can move across the country and beyond. So, when you look at the certifications that are being trained on from a workforce standpoint at TCC, these are national certifications,”.
Creating a national standard of accreditation for maritime trades training seemed to be the most desired challenge to be solved during the round table. However, during the 4 day visit by MacLeod and Dr. Shelly Kelly, Curriculum Consultant for NSCC they were able to discuss many other topics of interest that included the creation of stackable maritime trades competencies, STEM-related training, recruiting and retention of the maritime workforce, the use and expansion of technology-based training, and how our region uses industry associations and advisory boards such as the Virginia Ship Repair Association and the Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem, to answer these challenges.
“In Canada, we have the Red Seal Program, which was originally created to support the mobility of skilled tradespeople across the country. It has become a nationally-recognized standard for skilled trade workers in Canada,” said Dr. Kelly. Likewise, in the US, there are many credentialing programs but none are sufficiently tailored or dedicated to support the ship maintenance and repair industry.
The information shared and networking connections made during the round table, the local industry tours and the evening social will certainly serve those involved well as the maritime industry, academia and our Government’s navigate through these challenges.
The event was well-received and will likely result in more round tables and discussions over the next several months. Dwayne MacLeod stated that, “We’re incredibly appreciative for all the help provided and we hope very much that we can collaborate more in the future”.