Starting this fall, students and adult learners can take courses in welding from Oregon Coast Community College, thanks to a partnership with the Port of Toledo, Northwest Oregon Works, and the Lincoln County School District.
The Port of Toledo was the lead applicant in a $261,285 Maritime Administration Small Shipyard Grant Application to the U.S. Department of Transportation. On Wednesday, June 12, the partners learned that the grant had been awarded.
“Since I arrived at the College in 2014, I have heard from industry and community about the need for welding and maritime workforce training,” said OCCC President Birgitte Ryslinge. “Through this private-public collaboration we start building, rather than importing, our future maritime-industrial workforce. This means high-skilled, high-wage jobs for Lincoln County residents, and boosts for our collective economy. It is truly wonderful to be among such collaborative and forward-thinking leaders here in Lincoln County. We can’t wait to see our future welders practicing in the Shipyard Vocational Training Lab.”
To kick-start the program, the Port of Toledo will invest $87,096 in remodeling an existing space into a 12-bay welding training lab within the Toledo Shipyard’s Industrial Park. The grant will provide about $261,285 to outfit that space with equipment.
That lab space will be available beginning this fall for Newport High School, Siletz, and Eddyville students through the OCCC program. An existing welding program between the Port, Toledo High School and Waldport High School students will continue, because they can take introductory welding training at those schools and can then qualify for the internships.
Initially, the Maritime Construction Program will focus on the development and delivery of welding courses which will eventually lead to a shipbuilding certificate, which the College will begin developing in the fall working in conjunction with the Port of Toledo.
The initial funding of the welding faculty in this program will be provided by Northwest Oregon Works.
“We are particularly excited about what this project means to our coastal community,” said Bud Shoemake, Port Manager at the Port of Toledo, who spearheaded the grant-writing effort. “This year we partnered with the Lincoln County School District and had high school students from both Waldport and Toledo working as interns in our shipyard. These schools both have industrial programs which have allowed their students to progress into the internship. The vocational welding lab will provide students at the other high schools in Lincoln County the same opportunity to participate in industrial training. Partnering with OCCC opens the program to everyone else in the county. The welding lab, adjacent to our shipyard, will provide students with practical shipyard welding experience.”
Lawmakers pulled for grant
In a joint news release this week, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader said the Transportation Department resources for the port’s training lab are critical to maritime professional development and ensuring Oregon’s fishing fleet has access to quality shipyard facilities nearby both for routine boat maintenance as well as more involved mechanical and electrical work. State Rep. David Gomberg and Sen. Arnie Roblan also provided letters of support at the state level.
“The Port of Toledo plays a key role in supporting the Oregon Coast’s largest fishing fleet,” Wyden said. “These resources will help boats in the Newport area get repairs close to home, building on the port’s capacity to create jobs throughout Lincoln County as well as the central Oregon Coast.”
At the same time as the program gets rolling in Toledo, the College will begin teaching welding classes at Taft High School after school, thanks to funding support from the District. The welding courses will be available to both community members and high school students from within Lincoln County.
“The Lincoln County School District is committed to partnering with Oregon Coast Community College and local industry partners in using its High School Success funds and resources to expand career and technical education programs to support students and workforce development for our communities and families,” said LCSD Superintendent Karen Gray. “We are already appreciative of the Port of Toledo’s efforts to provide our students with on-the-job training and experience and look forward to the expansion of our partnership.”
Meeting a need
According to information from the grant application, the expansion which the port’s shipyard has experienced over the past five years has made port officials aware of the critical need for a skilled maritime workforce.
Currently the port recruits skilled workers nationwide and contracts for temporary skilled marine welders. With the exception of the port’s present partnership with Lincoln County School District to provide a shipyard workplace educational resource, there are currently no maritime workforce education programs offered within Lincoln County nor on the central Oregon coast. Consequently, the qualified labor pool for the Port of Toledo is very limited.
Work in shipyards building and repairing boats are family-wage jobs, and the shipyards are also critical to keeping ports vital, Merkley said.
“Creating training opportunities for shipyard jobs means a stronger and more prosperous Oregon coast,” he said.
With a workforce totaling nearly 19,000 in 2017 and average wages exceeding most other industries, Oregon’s maritime sector supports many family-wage jobs in Oregon. The sector is expected to continue adding new jobs, creating the need for more workers. Oregon’s maritime workforce is also aging. A large share of the current workforce will retire or change careers within the next 10 years, creating replacement openings for new workers. These workforce trends represent challenges for employers trying to fill their job vacancies, as well as more job opportunities for Oregonians in the maritime sector.
Currently students at only two of Lincoln County’s six high schools have access to industrial career training at their schools, due to the lack of facilities.
“I am proud to announce the Port of Toledo’s receipt of a significant federal grant that will give them the ability to offer high skill technical training to the local workforce,” Schrader said. “Continued investment in our coastal and rural communities is critical to ensuring folks get the technical training that they need to make a living wage and fully participate in their local economies.”
The Lincoln County School District will use the Shipyard Vocational Training Lab to provide students from all its high schools the opportunity to receive industrial welding training.
“The Northwest Oregon Works team is dedicated to meeting the needs of employers and job seekers in Lincoln County and throughout our five-county region,” said Heather DeSart, executive director of NOW. “This program is a perfect example of one cost-effective collaboration that is going to directly benefit employers and local industry while arming participants with real-world, career-ready skills. We are thrilled to be a part of it.”
Registration for the welding program will not begin until August. Anyone interested in learning more about the program can call 541-867-8501 or watch the College’s website, oregoncoastcc.org. High school students may contact OCCC or their school’s counseling staff for more details, and can watch for additional information on the school district website.