Saturday, July 13, 2024

Western Australia and Hampton Roads Forge Partnership to Train Future Shipbuilders

Hampton Roads Alliance meeting at the Mariners Museum on Wednesday, June 12. (Consociate Media)

NEWPORT NEWS — A technical college in Western Australia and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, in partnership with the Hampton Roads Alliance, announced a collaboration this month to develop the next generation of global shipbuilders.

This agreement 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, according to a press release.

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council made the partnership official by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Metropolitan TAFE during a recent 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 and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. “We’ve got a big need around the submarine industrial base right now.”

Hampton Roads Alliance meeting at the Mariners Museum on Wednesday, June 12. (Consociate Media)

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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