Western Australia and Hampton Roads Forge Partnership to Train Future Shipbuilders

Hampton Roads Alliance meeting at the Mariners Museum Wednesday June 12, 2024.

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia – A technical college in Western Australia and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, in partnership with the Hampton Roads Alliance, announced this month a groundbreaking collaboration aimed at developing the next generation of global shipbuilders.

This strategic collaboration will leverage the workforce development and training strengths of both regions to help equip future submarine builders with the skills and knowledge necessary to support the defense maritime sector.

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council made the partnership official by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Metropolitan TAFE during a ceremony at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.

“The MOU is fantastic because it is about formalizing dialogue, opening up discussions,” said Darshi Ganeson-Oats, Managing Director for South Metropolitan TAFE, one of Western Australia’s most diverse training providers. “It’s about sharing knowledge around training, workforce development, skilling, curriculum and business development, and looking at opportunities. It’s about us being able to lean into the knowledge and experience that you’ve got over here in Virginia.”

Specifically, Ganeson-Oats said, in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

“In Hampton Roads, our lifeblood is the maritime industry,” said Shawn Avery,President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. “We’ve got a big need around the submarine industrial base right now.”

A need that stretches all the way to Australia.

The AUKUS security partnership agreement signed in 2021 by Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. aligns the three nations to cooperate on maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific by driving the selection of advanced capabilities for Australia.

As part of the agreement, Australia will purchase U.S.-made Virginia-class, conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines and replace its current fleet of diesel electric subs. 

“We’ve had a long history of working in maritime defense, but we do not have a history in working with nuclear powered submarines,” said Ganeson-Oats. “To support the sustainment and the maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines, we need to understand the skills needed for that. Then, looking at those skills that are needed, we need to know what training to provide to the workforce to get those skills.”

That’s where Hampton Roads and its leading economic development organizations in the Council and Alliance come in.

Boiled down, the MOU, Avery said, is about identifying workforce development opportunities between the Hampton Roads and Western Australia regions and then sharing applicable resources moving forward.

“This is the start of a long relationship with the Australians,” Avery said. “The submarines that are being built right now are going to be our grandkids’ submarines. I may be retired before this is all said and done, but I’m very happy to be at the ground floor of it.”

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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, including Chesapeake, Franklin, Gloucester, Hampton, Isle of Wight, James City, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and York. 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. For more information visit theworkforcecouncil.org.

ABOUT THE HAMPTON ROADS ALLIANCE

The Hampton Roads Alliance is the leading regional economic development organization for the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. It is a nonprofit, public-private partnership supported and led by 14 public sector and over 90 private sector investors. The Alliance’s key responsibilities include marketing the Hampton Roads region to domestic and international firms looking to expand and/or relocate in the next 12-24 months. The Alliance works to attract and support businesses in key industries, including shipbuilding and maritime. Major local maritime companies such as HII-Newport News Shipbuilding, Fairlead and Colonna’s Shipyard are members of the Hampton Roads Alliance. For more information visit hamptonroadsalliance.com.

ABOUT SOUTH METROPOLITAN TAFE

South Metropolitan TAFE is one of Western Australia’s most diverse training providers with major campuses in Bentley, Carlisle, Fremantle, Murdoch, Rockingham, Thornlie and Mandurah. They offer over 300 qualifications, from foundation courses to apprenticeships and traineeships, to diplomas and skill sets. Over 30,000 students spread across its Perth campuses, with more students in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America through partnerships offshore. For more information visit southmetrotafe.wa.edu.au.