The mission of the recently created National Maritime Education Council (NMEC) is pretty simple. It’s to lead the marine industry in the development and sustainment of a national workforce program.
This includes funding the development and establishment of a foundation for a formal workforce development system by creating a standardized curriculum in three areas — shipfitting/welding, pipefitting, and electrical. NMEC calls the effort “The Lighthouse Campaign.”
Let’s say a shipyard worker successfully passes an accredited training program in the Seattle area. Eight months later he finds himself living in the Norfolk, Va., area. He could show up looking for work in any shipyard in the area and have a good chance of landing the job because the yards would have a good idea of his skill set based on his completion of an NMEC-accredited program in Seattle.
“There should be a transferability of workers between each yard,” said Byron Dunn, president, Gulf States Shipbuilders Consortium, Mobile, Ala., and chairman of The Lighthouse Campaign. “Right now, there is no standardized credential for these shipyard workers.”
To get the program off the ground, NMEC had to have the cooperation of shipyards throughout the U.S. “We realized that for this to have the biggest impact, it would have to be on a national level,” said Dunn. “It was hard to get the shipyards to talk to one another.”
Dunn said other heavy industries have workers whose skills could also transfer easily to the shipbuilding industry. “Workers in the chemical and refining plants, for instance,” he said.
John Lotshaw, director, operations workforce, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Miss., said a lot of time is wasted testing potential workers to determine their skill level. Sometimes they don’t know as much as they claim. With a national credential, shipyard operators will have a better idea what to expect from a job seeker. “This definitely has a lot of merit,” said Lotshaw. “This adds value to the worker.”
This type of standardized training can eventually be used in the future in other sectors of the marine industry, said Lotshaw. “They’ve been using it in the construction industry and it’s really worked out, but it has to be a multipronged approach.”