Kaine addresses workforce development

Published 9:59 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

The U.S. Navy will pursue building about 75 additional ships for its active fleet over the next 20 years, and Sen. Tim Kaine gathered a summit to discuss how Hampton Roads can fill the Navy’s needs.

Kaine gathered with workforce and economic development professionals at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton Friday morning to talk about what can be done to grow the workforce in the Tidewater area.

“We can make a commitment and put the money in the budget, but it is not magic,” Kaine said. “We don’t have the people to do the work we need to do.”

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The recurring theme for helping expand the workforce in Hampton Roads was education.

“Workers that will be building the ships to get us to 355 are in pre-K, and some of them aren’t born yet,” Kaine said. “What are we going to do to get them the skills they need and convince them that shipbuilding and ship repair are fantastic careers to train in and commit themselves to?”

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James F. Geurts was the keynote speaker for the event.

Expanding the workforce is the only way for the Navy’s fleet to expand, and Geurts and other speakers continued to echo the sentiment.

“Three hundred fifty-five ships are irrelevant if we can’t get the workforce to design them and to build, operate and maintain them,” Geurts said.

A larger workforce is necessary to grow the active naval fleet, but a larger workforce will also lead to a more affordable naval fleet.

Dr. Latitia McCane, director of education at the Apprentice School, attended the summit as well. Newport News Shipbuilding employs 22,000 people in Hampton Roads, and many of those employees come from the Apprentice School, which will be 100 years old in 2019.

“We consider workforce development the heart of what we do,” McCane said.

The Apprentice School has a partnership with PDCCC that allows those attending the Apprentice School to transfer credits and complete degree programs in business, engineering and technology.

“We try and introduce shipbuilding skills and concepts as early as middle schools,” McCane said. “We are looking to destigmatize manufacturing careers.”