Maritime Training Program In the Works Would be the First of its Kind in Louisiana

by | Thursday, January 15, 2015 |

Officials in the State and local parishes are working together to establish a first-ever maritime training program in Louisiana that will unite three separate community colleges.

Though the effort is just beginning, officials say that programs at Fletcher Technical Community College, Delgado Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College could be affected as early as this spring as part of the creation of the “Maritime Center of Excellence”.

Said Earl Meador, Interim Chancellor and Director at Fletcher, "It's about bringing together all of the marine resources in the state to serve the program as a whole."

Meador, along with Monty Sullivan, the Director of Louisiana Community and Technical College System, credit Senator Norby Chabert (R-Houma) with spearheading the initiative.

According to Chabert, "If we're going to be a maritime-based commerce economy in south Louisiana, it doesn't make sense to be training people for jobs not necessarily in this area or not giving them the training for jobs that exist in this area."

Ten months ago the discussions began following the last legislative session when oilfield businesses started the conversation in an effort to address a skilled worker shortage. Sullivan then reached out to Chabert and they began a dialogue about the creation of the Center.

Creating the partnership

Centers like the one proposed were established by Legislature in 2010, and are intended to "provide opportunities for partnerships between college and local business and industry to educate and train a skilled workforce”. Louisiana state law requires that a center meet a documented workforce need, and teachers must have national, international and local expertise. Additionally, the schools must bring in resources like equipment and faculty from industry partners. Five such centers operate across Louisiana, including Fletcher’s oilfield technology program and Delgado’s cooking school.

Survey results pending

Officials are currently waiting on the results of a study, performed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry that will better identify training needs and workforce demands. The survey will remain open until next week.

Early results suggest that the Louisiana maritime industry expects to hire 3,000 workers within the next five years, with the primary needs being deckhands, boat captains and wheelmen. Final recommendations from the survey are expected within a month. Once the results are complete, they will be presented to Chabert’s Senate committee and an official proposal will be drafted shortly thereafter.

Says Chabert, "Those three schools [Delgado, Fletcher and South Central Louisiana Tech] really have had a background, if you will, in certain aspects of certification and the degree fields that maritime businesses have needed, need and will need in the future."

Programs could include two-year degrees or new certifications. Such programs and degrees would require approval by the USCG or state Board of Regents for Higher Education. However, if approved, some of the programs could be impacted as soon as this spring.

A building to house the program

Officials have started the planning process for a building to house the new program. Rumors began in early December about a $50 million facility near Fletcher’s campus, and, in fact, a request for $50 million from Louisiana’s construction budget was made. Wherever the building ends up, pending approval, the completion of construction could be over two years away.

According to Sullivan, part of the goal of the center is to connect workers in Houma-Thibodaux and New Orleans to jobs available. Said Sullivan, "We've got to get more people in those programs and create skilled workers. We've got to broaden the number of programs we offer. Some of the info we're seeing in early results, we're probably touching about half of the workforce demands."

The center would also work closely with Fletcher and South Central’s current safety certification programs.

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