HAMPTON, Virginia – Nearly 300 students representing 18 training providers participated in the Virginia Talent Pipeline Project’s (VA TPP) inaugural Project MFG Welding Competition and Career Discovery Day at Virginia Peninsula Community College in Hampton, Virginia on November 16.
The VA TPP is one of several training pipelines that create opportunities, build a workforce, and connect more people to the Navy’s mission. The Project MFG Welding Competition and Career Discovery Day aimed to engage and strengthen the Hampton Roads defense manufacturing base by developing the maritime-focused manufacturing talent pipeline in support of the Navy’s significant demand for critical trade capabilities.
“You are at an incredible tipping point and an incredible crossroads of an opportunity to serve and an opportunity for you, your families and your community,” said Matt Sermon, executive director of the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Program Executive Office for Strategic Submarines, the oversees the Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. Sermon spoke of a call to action to support manufacturing through partnerships, aggressive recruitment, competitive pay, meaningful work, employers that care and innovation. “We can do it!” he added.
The welding competition, hosted by Virginia Peninsula Community College and conducted by Project MFG, drew 27 participants from local high schools and community and technical education (CTE) centers. Competitors competed against a two-hour clock to weld miniature submarines, which were then pressure tested and scored.
A career day was held parallel to the welding competition. The students spoke to potential employers to learn more about their role in the defense industry and the opportunities available in critical shipbuilding and sustainment areas. Program participants also had the opportunity to showcase themselves through tours of Newport News Shipbuilding, Fairlead Boat Works and Advex Corporation.
Gene Garland, military contact coordinator for Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s office, spoke to the students and outlined the National Imperative for Industrial Skills. “The pipeline is one of 12 national imperatives for skilled industry, focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises, and is an economic development initiative that will create and sustain maritime power.” Garland encouraged CTE candidates to seek employment in the shipbuilding industry Looking for.
Scott Dodsworth, a graduate of the New Horizons Regional Education Center, also reached out to the students, sharing his career path with local provider Fairlead. After training as a welder, he went from being a welder’s assistant to a second-class welder and has been with the company for three years. He explained that his education and work opportunity “has taken me to a great place in my life.”
The Navy’s SIB program addresses gaps in trade skills that affect the Navy’s success in building and maintaining Navy platforms and systems. A network of regional training systems and government pipelines will be implemented to fill the workforce gaps affecting shipbuilders and subcontractors in maritime hubs. Hiring new, skilled employees and building a strong workforce within our existing workforce requires a connected community and innovative approaches to training and employing skilled employees.
For more information on the Virginia Talent Pipeline Project, visit www.defenseinindustrialworkforcepipeline.com