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Baldwin, Vitter, Kaine Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Boost Maritime and Energy Jobs

Bipartisan legislation would create new program to support critical need for trained workers in vital Wisconsin, Louisiana and Virginia industries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), David Vitter (R-LA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would authorize creation of a new program to support capacity building to address the critical need for trained workers in the maritime and energy industries. The Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act would establish centers of excellence programs in maritime and energy workforce technical training in addition to awarding competitive grants.

“It is an honor to represent a state with a long and proud maritime manufacturing tradition. Our Made in Wisconsin manufacturing economy has sustained our prosperity for generations and I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will continue Wisconsin’s legacy and ensure the future viability of our maritime workforce through industry-specific education and training,” said Senator Baldwin.

“As we work to grow Louisiana’s economy – especially in the maritime and energy industries – one of the biggest challenges we face as a state is meeting the demands for a skilled workforce to fill those great jobs. I’m proud to say that this bipartisan legislation will help Louisiana meet that goal,” said Senator Vitter. “Senators Baldwin, Kaine and I have introduced the bipartisan Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act in order to empower our young folks so that they can pursue careers in some of our most successful, job-creating industries.”

“This bipartisan legislation will empower institutions like Tidewater Community College to harness and grow the Hampton Roads region’s maritime workforce so that as the maritime economy develops and new sectors like offshore energy come online, there will be a home-grown local workforce ready to fill those jobs,” said Senator Kaine.

“Wisconsin’s high-skill marine industry workforce is key to moving Wisconsin’s goods to customers around the world. Maritime Centers of Excellence will enable NWTC and other colleges to continue to build our state’s export economy and maintain the best maritime workforce in the world,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Rafn, President, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

“We commend Senator Baldwin for understanding the importance of investing in the maritime industry, which is a strong economic driver in Wisconsin. Over the last five years, one of the greatest concerns of its members is finding a skilled workforce. The Alliance is confident that the Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act will impact the number of individuals trained in good paying maritime manufacturing careers.  Without increasing the investment in skills training for marine builders, the industry will not be able to meet the demands for new pleasure craft and most importantly for building and maintaining the Naval fleet to keep the United States secure,” said Ann Franz, Director of North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance, an industry partnership of the seven ship, yacht, and boat builders in northeast Wisconsin. 

The Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act authorizes $12 million in each of the next three fiscal years to support two programs to help community and technical colleges, as well as public four-year institutions, bolster their job training efforts in the maritime and energy industries through: 

Maritime and Energy Workforce Training Grants

The bill authorizes the Secretary of Energy to make grants (between $1 and $1.5 million) to eligible colleges to expand maritime and energy workforce training programs, including by admitting more students, training faculty, expanding facilities, creating maritime career pathways from associate to baccalaureate degrees, awarding credit for prior learning experience, or increasing cooperation with federal agencies. The grants are provided for three-year periods.     

These grants may be used for:

  • Training related to maritime transportation, logistics, supply chain management, shipbuilding and ship repair;
  • Enhancement of workforce training, to include certifications and apprenticeships, for relevant maritime employment categories, such as tankerman, deckhand, and able body seaman;
  • Salary supplementation for faculty in maritime training;
  • Operation of ship simulators, fire suppression equipment, marine fueling equipment, and measuring and sampling instruments;
  • Acquisition of maritime training equipment;
  • Renovation or construction of buildings used in maritime training (limited to 50% of any grant award); and
  • Tuition reimbursement for successful completion of a maritime course, program, or certification.

Centers of Excellence

The bill authorizes grants (of no more than $1.5 million) for up to 10 colleges to establish Centers of Excellence (COE) in maritime and energy workforce training, to expand workforce training opportunities, and to assist with job placement. It gives priority to colleges with an existing partnership with federal agencies or other public or private partners. The bill also allows each COE to use grants to develop an agenda for maritime and energy training; fund expansion of maritime and energy training and education; or publish or otherwise disseminate findings relating to best practices in maritime and energy training and education.

To be eligible for either program, an institution must be a community college or other public postsecondary educational institution located in close proximity to marine or port facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, or Great Lakes offering a maritime training and education program, and which has an established association with a port authority or other established seaport or inland port facility, as well as an appropriate federal or other government agency (such as the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, or Transportation). The institution must also provide for an admissions preference for veterans.

Learn more about the Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act here.

In Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia and across America, the maritime workforce keeps the fleet of commercial vessels well-maintained, ensuring maritime transport remains one of the safest, most energy-efficient forms of transportation for passengers and Made in America products. The maritime industry also builds and maintains vessels critical to transportation safety, including Coast Guard ships, dredges, icebreakers, research vessels, military vessels, and fire and rescue boats. Boosting America’s maritime workforce will ensure that local economies can continue to stay afloat.

Senator Baldwin has been a strong advocate for Wisconsin’s maritime industry and our Made in Wisconsin economy. In January, Senator Baldwin opposed a pending amendment that could endanger U.S. shipbuilding jobs and outsource to foreign countries work currently being done by American workers. The amendment would repeal the Jones Act requirement that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by only American-made, owned and operated ships. Senator Baldwin has also visited multiple shipyards and marine manufactures in Wisconsin, including Burger Boats, Marinette Marine, Marine Travelift and Fraser Shipyards.

Senator Vitter has been a champion for Louisiana’s maritime and energy industries, and earlier this year was named the American Association of Port Authorities’ (AAPA) 2015 “Port Person of the Year.” Louisiana’s maritime industry ranks first in the nation, and over the years, Vitter has worked to ensure that several Louisiana projects have the funds and resources they need to move forward in a timely manner. In 2014, Vitter was the lead Senate Republican on the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, provide hurricane and flood protection for Louisianians, necessary reforms to the Corps and improvements to the nation’s waterways.

In late June, Representatives Gene Green (R-TX), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced an identical bill in the House of Representatives.    

Supporters of the Maritime and Energy Workforce Technical Training Enhancement Act include:

Ace Marine, Green Bay, WI

The Apprentice School, Newport News, VA

Bay Shipping Co., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Bergerson Marine Construction, Astoria, OR

Big River Coalition

Burger Boat Co., Manitowoc, WI

City of Deer Park, TX

City of Key West, FL

City of Marathon, FL

City of Morgan’s Point, TX

City of Seabrook, TX

Clatsop Community College, Astoria, OR

Columbia River Pilots, OR

Columbia River Steamship Operators, OR

Commonwealth of Virginia

Cruiser Yachts, Oconto, WI 

Delgado Community College, New Orleans, LA

Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, TX

Fincantieri Marine Group, DePere, WI

Fletcher Technical Community College, Houma, LA

Florida Keys Community College, Key West,   FL

Foss Maritime, OR and WA

Golden Alaska Fisheries, WA

Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, FL

Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, VA

Houston Pilots, Houston, TX

Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News, VA

Hydrokinetic Energy Corp., Key West,   FL

Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, FL

Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, FL

Key West Yacht Club, FL

Kiwi’s Water Taxi Service, OR

Knudson Towing, WA

Leidos, OR

Louisiana Community and Technical College System, LA

Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, FL

Lower Keys Medical Center, FL

Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center, FL

Maritime Fire and Safety Association, OR and WA

Marinette Marine Corp., DePere, WI

Marquis Yachts, Pulaski, WI

Military Affairs Committee of Key West, FL

Navy League of the United States, Arlington, VA

Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, VA

North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance, WI

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay, WI

Olympic Tug and Barge, WA

Oregon Sea Grant, OR

Oregon State Marine Board, OR

Pacific Dawn Fisheries, OR and WA

Pacific Norwest Defense Coalition, OR and WA

Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, OR and WA

Palmer Johnson Yachts, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Portland Merchants Exchange, WA

Portland Spirit Cruise Line, OR

Port of Astoria, OR

Port of Key West, FL

Port of Longview, WA

San Jacinto College, Houston, TX

The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor of Florida

Shaver Transportation, OR

South Central Louisiana Technical College, Morgan City, LA

Sumitomo Drive Technologies, Chesapeake, VA

Tidewater Barge Lines, WA

Tidewater Community College, Norfolk, VA

Village of Islamorada, FL

Virginia Port Authority, Norfolk, VA

Virginia Ship Repair Association, Norfolk, VA