San Jacinto College in Pasedena, Texas, is one step closer to having a Maritime Center of Excellence. The U.S. Senate recently voted to approve maritime workforce centers of excellence as part of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This follows a vote earlier in the year from the U.S. House of Representatives approving the legislation.
There are slight differences between the House-passed maritime provision and the Senate version, but both are based on the original Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act (H.R. 2286) to authorize federal support for maritime centers of excellence at two-year community and technical colleges. In late June, the Senate’s Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security subcommittee approved an amendment by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., to include language from the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act into a Marad reauthorization bill (S. 1096).
The act was offered on the Senate floor in September as part of broader package of maritime provisions contained in an NDAA amendment by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Deb Fisher, R-Neb., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act is unique in that it is limited to community and technical colleges.
“I’m proud to support this provision to strengthen our nation’s maritime workforce, which will benefit both national security and international trade,” said Cornyn. “Located in close proximity to one of the nation’s most active ports, San Jacinto College is already a top maritime education institution, and this bill will allow it to expand and strengthen its program to serve its students even better.”
As a Center of Excellence, two-year colleges will be able to expand their capacity to train domestic maritime workers by admitting more students, training faculty, expanding facilities, creating new maritime career pathways from associate degree to baccalaureate degree programs, and awarding credit for prior learning experience, including military service.
“We are truly grateful that both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate recognize community colleges as training sources for mariners,” said John Stauffer, associate vice chancellor and superintendent of maritime at San Jacinto College. “Because San Jacinto College maritime is located in one of the largest port regions, we welcome the opportunity to produce highly qualified mariners to enter the workforce and alleviate the shortages that are occurring due to retirements and the expanding global market.”
Since 2010, San Jacinto College’s maritime program has awarded more than 5,500 U.S. Coast Guard-approved course completion certificates. Keeping current with the most recent developments of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), which require some tasks to be completed on a vessel, the college has received support from Marad to allow maritime students access to Ready Reserve Fleet ships. This will ensure that they complete their required training to advance in the industry and stay current with Coast Guard requirements.
San Jacinto College is also home to Texas’ first associate degree program in maritime transportation to train those new to the maritime industry. Last year marked the opening of the college’s Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus in La Porte, Texas, to offer more training opportunities for new and incumbent mariners.