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New law creates Maritime Centers of Excellence

Dec 20, 2017 05:31 PM

San Jacinto College and other designees will expand their capacity to train mariners

The following is the text of a news release from San Jacinto College:

(PASADENA, Texas) — President Donald Trump has signed into law the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions from the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act (H.R. 2286) that authorizes federal designation of community and technical college “centers of excellence” to help provide technical education and training programs to secure the talent pipeline for the nation’s maritime work force.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, introduced the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act. In September, the legislation was offered on the Senate floor as part of broader package of maritime provisions contained in an NDAA amendment by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

“San Jacinto College is positioned as a top maritime training program in the heart of one of the largest ports in the world,” said Cornyn. "This legislation will benefit both national security and international trade and allow for the growth and strengthening of our maritime work force thanks to training programs at our community colleges.”

As a Maritime Center of Excellence, San Jacinto College will expand its 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.

“In our district, we have a surplus of maritime jobs and not enough people with the skills and training to fill them,” said Green in a news release. “The industry is continuing to invest and grow along the Port of Houston, and we want to make sure that our constituents have the opportunity to take these high skilled, middle-class jobs. This bipartisan legislation will help bridge the gap. It’s good for our local community, it’s good for our businesses, and it’s good for the American economy.”

A lack of federal government focus on domestic maritime industry technical training, maritime workers approaching retirement, technological advancements, and the expansion of the Panama Canal are all factors that affect the maritime work force shortage. Under the provisions of the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) can support community and technical college centers of excellence by providing funding and support, technical assistance, and donating surplus federal assets for maritime education – such as marine vessels for use in training programs. Recently, San Jacinto College received support from MarAd to allow maritime students access to Ready Reserve Fleet ships to keep current with the most recent developments of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).

San Jacinto College has awarded more than 5,500 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved course completion certificates since 2010 and 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 College’s Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus in La Porte, Texas, to offer more training opportunities for new and incumbent mariners.

“We are truly grateful to Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Green for supporting the important role community colleges hold in the training of mariners for the workforce,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College, in a prepared statement. “San Jacinto College’s maritime program is located along one of the busiest ports in the United States. We are committed to producing highly qualified mariners and aim to alleviate the shortages occurring due to retirements and the expanding global market.”

The San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on the Maritime Campus offers a full calendar of USCG-approved maritime courses. For more information and to register, visit sanjac.edu/maritime.

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