Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Boost Maritime Training at Community and Technical Colleges

Port of Houston
Photo credit: Port of Houston

U.S. lawmakers from two key maritime states have introduced bipartisan legislation seeking to advance the capabilities of two-year community and technical colleges to assist the federal government and industry in securing the talent pipeline for domestic maritime industry jobs.

The bill, known as the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act of 2017, was introduced Tuesday by U.S. Representatives Gene Green (D-TX) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) with the support of fellow lawmakers in California and Texas.

Under the Act, the Secretary of Transporation would be authorized to designate community and technical colleges meeting certain requirements as centers of excellence for the purpose of domestic maritime workforce training and education. The designation would open the door for technical assistance, access to surplus federal equipment and assets, and federal funding.

“In our district, we have a surplus of maritime jobs and not enough people with the skills and training to fill them,” said Rep. Green, whose district is home to the Port of Houston. “The industry is continuing to invest and grow along the Port of Houston, and we want to make sure that our constituents have the opportunity to take these high skilled jobs. This bipartisan legislation will help bridge the gap.”

Congressman Wittman, representing Virginia’s first congressional district, stressed the importance of a strong maritime workforce to the economy and national security.

“A well-trained, skilled maritime workforce is critical for our nation’s economy and national security,” said Rep. Wittman. “Advancing the capabilities of community and technical colleges – such as Rappahannock and Tidewater Community College – to assist the federal government and industry in securing the talent pipeline for the domestic maritime industry will mean more shipbuilders and repairmen to sustain and expand trade and grow our Navy’s Fleet.” 

“There are over 56,000 direct maritime related jobs at the Port of Houston alone,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). “As the workforce grows, students must be ready to enter the maritime industry with job ready skills. This legislation simply gives local community and technical colleges the resources to effectively prepare their students. As Co-Chairman of the PORTS Caucus, I recognize that this legislation takes an important step forward in ensuring future workforce growth for the Port of Houston and ports across the nation.”

“I am pleased to introduce the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act with my colleagues to bolster our maritime industry, raise up our community and technical colleges, and empower students to find well-paying jobs in this critical sector of the American economy,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). “Strengthening this workforce is essential to maintaining our nation’s goods movement system and vital to our national defense.”

“The Port of Virginia is handling record cargo volumes, and to meet the growth the port is investing in its terminals to increase the annual capacity by 1 million container units by 2020,” said Virginia Port Authority CEO and Executive Director John Reinhart. “The port and its related industry will need a skilled, educated and expanding workforce to complement this growth. This legislation is important because it would make additional resources available to programs like the Southeast Maritime and Transportation Center at Tidewater Community College to meet the demands of Virginia’s rapidly expanding maritime industry.”

“The recruitment and development of shipyard workers is critical to the future of the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry,” said Matthew Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA). “Empowering MARAD to recruit, train and develop the next generation of workers will provide a stable workforce and ensure there is sufficient talent to build our commercial and military ships for decades to come.”