Legislation would designate maritime Centers of Excellence for 2-year colleges
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes $696 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 2018. This includes the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act, H.R. 2286, sponsored by Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to provide assistance and designate San Jacinto College and other selected community and technical colleges and workforce training centers as “Centers of Excellence.”
The provision, introduced in May as an amendment to the NDAA, will 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. Rep. Green said this furthers the efforts in training and providing people with the skills it takes to fill the gap in the maritime workforce.
“In our district, we have a surplus of maritime jobs and not enough people with the skills and training to fill them,” Rep. Green said in a prepared statement. “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. It’s good for our local community, it’s good for our businesses, and it’s good for the American economy.”
Unless action is taken to expand the availability of domestic maritime workforce technical training, the continued lack of federal government focus on training, a large percentage of the workforce nearing retirement, technological advancements and the expansion of the Panama Canal are all factors that will compound the domestic maritime workforce shortage in the years ahead.
As Centers 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. Over the years, the federal government has designated and funded numerous Centers of Excellence at four-year universities – primarily to advance federal research and development goals. Historically, Centers of Excellence programs have not benefited two-year colleges. The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act is unique and precedent-setting in that it is limited to community and technical colleges.
“The Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence Act will be a catalyst for enabling access to surplus federal equipment and assets to be used in training our maritime workforce,” said Chief John Stauffer, associate vice chancellor and superintendent of maritime at San Jacinto College. Stauffer recently attended the community college leadership Washington, DC "Fly-In" conference for a day focused on maritime with the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD). “This will ensure that mariners in training are equipped with the skills to meet the needs of the marketplace. It will also enhance the training held at San Jacinto College’s newly built Maritime Technology and Training Center.”
Since 2010, the San Jacinto College maritime program has awarded more than 5,500 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved course completion certificates. The College also introduced the state’s first associate degree program in maritime transportation to train those new to the maritime industry. Last year marked the opening of the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus in La Porte, Texas, to offer more training opportunities for new and incumbent mariners.
The San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus offers a full calendar of USCG-approved maritime courses. For more information and to register, visit sanjac.edu/maritime.