Hampton Roads Workforce Council Receives $14 Million from U.S. Department of Defense to Bolster Maritime Workforce

Funding to support regional workforce initiatives related to U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base

Norfolk, VA — December 7, 2023— The Hampton Roads Workforce Council, in collaboration with Newport News Shipbuilding and a host of local maritime industry businesses and training providers, announced that it has received $14 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to launch a series of projects designed to bolster the regional workforce in the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) and related industries. These initiatives are part of a major, nation-wide effort led by the Navy to strengthen and expand the nation’s maritime manufacturing workforce to meet a massive increase in demand for submarine construction. 

The Workforce Council will serve as the central hub, connecting the shipbuilding and ship repair industries and various training providers to job seekers in the region.

To guide this work, the organization recently contracted with BlueForge Alliance (BFA), a nonprofit, neutral integrator that executes U.S. Navy’s initiatives to strengthen and expand the SIB. Under the scope of this award, the Department of Defense commissioned the Workforce Council to manage ten projects that will add capacity to training facilities, market the industry across the region, connect veterans and transitioning service members to maritime careers, and expand outreach to local middle and high school students — with the goal of sustaining the region’s maritime talent pipeline. These projects are in conjunction with an additional $10 million for four other capacity-building projects to Hampton Roads institutions delivering maritime training and education.

“As global scenarios continue to stoke concerns around national security, we recognize the need for additional workforce solutions to support increasing demands of future delivery of Columbia and Virginia class submarines, sustainment of in-service submarines, and support for international partnerships,” said Mr. Matt Sermon, Executive Director, Program Executive Office for Strategic Submarines.  “The Hampton Roads region is a critical maritime center of gravity for our nation. The Workforce Council has been at the forefront of initiatives aimed at attracting, training, and retaining talent to support in-demand industries in Hampton Roads; and we trust in their leadership to help us navigate this mission-critical process — as proven by their industry expertise, strategic partnerships, and best-in-class programs.”

A Long-standing Commitment to Regional Talent Alignment

This $14 million funding follows a string of talent recruitment and training initiatives led by the Workforce Council over the last several years, including the organization’s 2019 release of the Hampton Roads Talent Alignment Strategy and the subsequent expansion of their Talent Division. 

Leveraging established relationships with Newport News Shipbuilding, the Virginia Ship Repair Association, the Virginia Community College System, state and local government, maritime employers and training providers, and other workforce development stakeholders across southeastern Virginia and beyond, the Workforce Council has made significant progress in the maritime talent recruitment space.

A series of grants, initiatives, and programs targeting talent development illuminate the rapid expansion of the Workforce Council’s talent development architecture and underscore their capacity to support the SIB work:

October 2020

  • The Workforce Council launches the maritime-focused Talent Pipeline Management Team through a $663,000 grant from GO Virginia.

March 2022

  • The Workforce Council launches the HR STRONG PILOT program, which offers marine trade training opportunities, based on $1.5 million of funding from the Virginia General Assembly.
  • The Workforce Council expands the WISC program (Women In Skilled Careers), now called WANTO (Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations), which provides skills training for women industries where they are underrepresented, including the maritime industry.

September 2022

  • The Workforce Council receives an $11 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (Good Jobs Grant Challenge) to lead the development and implementation of a Regional Workforce Training System (RWTS) in Hampton Roads — the region’s first structured workforce ecosystem focused on building a talent pipeline for the local maritime industry.  The Workforce Council began rolling out this maritime initiative on October 1. The team has now deployed 17 dedicated staff members strategically located across the 27 independent localities in Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. These team members are currently working to augment current maritime outreach and recruitment efforts to the 1.9 million residents in this region.

July 2023

  • The Workforce Council receives $2.5 million in additional funding for HR STRONG from the Virginia General Assembly to support continuation of maritime training in this region. The Workforce Council also received funding from the City of Norfolk and the City of Virginia Beach —designated to support their constituents through this effort.

“The Workforce Council has been steadfast in efforts to build a skilled talent pipeline capable of meeting the needs of our most in-demand industries; and as home to the world’s largest naval base and the nation’s largest shipbuilding subsector, we have prioritized the development of programs, services, and solutions to support the maritime industry,” said Shawn Avery, President & CEO, Hampton Roads Workforce Council.  “We are honored to serve in this capacity and remain committed to being optimal stewards of the resources entrusted to us to meet this critical demand.” 

To support all of this work, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council established an Executive Steering Committee to guide informed strategic decisions driven by industry demand signals to support current and future workforce development efforts across the maritime industry in Hampton Roads.

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About the Hampton Roads Workforce Council

Established by the Hampton Roads Workforce Development Board, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council oversees federally-funded workforce development programs for all localities in the Hampton Roads region. The Hampton Roads Workforce Council provides strategic workforce development solutions designed to assist businesses in accessing qualified workers and job seekers in search of suitable job openings and training opportunities to bolster their earning potential.