San Jacinto College marks U.S. Senate committee passage of Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence legislation
05.23.2017 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur
Bill would designate two-year colleges as National Centers for Maritime Workforce Training
PASADENA, Texas – San Jacinto College is marking a significant milestone with passage of the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act by a U.S. Senate committee. By creating a “centers of excellence” designation for two-year colleges, this legislation fills a void in the nation’s maritime workforce training and education programs.
The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act is intended to 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. The State Maritime Academies, located at four-year institutions, are not training for the numerous domestic maritime technical employment positions in and around the nation’s ports, inland waterways and the Great Lakes. The Academies are federally designated, funded and focused on training professional mariners and marine engineers for careers in international shipping.
The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 2, 2017, by Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rob Wittman (R-VA), with bipartisan support. Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) also voiced his support for the bill on the House side. A Senate companion bill was introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
At a markup in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act was unanimously approved as part of a reauthorization of U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) programs.
“On behalf of San Jacinto College and our maritime industry partners, we sincerely thank our senate and congressional representatives for supporting us in our promise to train the workforce for the Gulf Coast region,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto College Chancellor. “San Jacinto College is committed to the maritime industry by providing U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved courses and training at our Maritime Technology and Training Center located along the Port of Houston. This support is key to meeting the growing maritime demands along the Gulf Coast Region and beyond.”
Since 2010, the San Jacinto College maritime program has awarded more than 5,500 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.
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 from course providers approved by the USCG. Community and technical colleges offer this training on an affordable basis.
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, 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.
Community and technical colleges with maritime workforce technical training programs are capable of working with MARAD and U.S. industry to secure the domestic maritime talent pipeline. MARAD can support community and technical college centers of excellence by providing technical assistance, donating surplus federal assets for maritime education, and providing funding to support conferences and other programs. The centers of excellence 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.
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 San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus offers a full calendar of U.S. Coast Guard-approved maritime courses. For more information and to register, visit sanjac.edu/maritime.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.