Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Legislation Signed into Law
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Donald Trump signed into law the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions from the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act (H.R. 2286), introduced by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX-29). The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act authorizes federal designation of community and technical college “centers of excellence” to help provide technical education and training programs that will secure the talent pipeline for the nation’s maritime workforce.
A shortage of qualified maritime workers has been identified by U.S. industry leaders as the primary challenge to growth in the domestic maritime sector. The maritime industry requires technical skills training and licensing – even for entry-level positions. To earn appropriate credentials for each level of maritime industry employment, workers must complete regular training. Community and technical colleges can provide this training – on an affordable basis.
“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. “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, middle-class 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 domestic maritime industry technical training, the aging- out of the maritime workforce, technological advancements, and the expansion of the Panama Canal are all factors that will compound the domestic maritime workforce shortage in the years ahead.
Numerous community and technical colleges across the country are capable of providing leadership in domestic maritime workforce training. Two-year public colleges with maritime and marine technology workforce technical training programs, such as San Jacinto College, serving eastern Harris County, Texas, are capable of working with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), and U.S. industry to secure the domestic maritime workforce talent pipeline. San Jacinto College and other community and technical colleges seek federal designation as centers of excellence to expand their capacity to train greater numbers of U.S. workers for maritime industry jobs.
“We are truly grateful to Rep. Gene Green for supporting the important role community colleges hold in the training of mariners for the workforce,” said Brenda Hellyer, Ed.D., Chancellor of San Jacinto College. “San Jacinto College’s maritime program is located along one of the busiest ports in the United States. We commit to producing highly qualified mariners and aim to alleviate the shortages occurring due to retirements and the expanding global market.”
Under the provisions of Congressman Green’s Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act, which has become law as part of the NDAA, MARAD can support community and technical college centers of excellence by providing funding and support, technical assistance, and donating surplus federal assets for maritime education – such as marine vessels for use in training programs. The centers of excellence designation will enable colleges 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.