Maritime industry offers opportunities to ex-offenders

The welding program at Seattle's Harbor Island Training Center is a joint venture between Vigor Industrial and South Seattle Community College.

The welding program at Seattle’s Harbor Island Training Center is a joint venture between Vigor Industrial and South Seattle Community College.

Formerly incarcerated job seekers may want to check out jobs in the maritime trades, and a new maritime painting class in the San Francisco Bay Area is just one example of some of the opportunities that exist.

A joint venture between the College of Alameda and Bay Ship & Yacht, the program is seeking out those on probation, formerly homeless individuals and veterans to fill the first four-week class, which will take place in September. And those who do well may have a job offer at the end.

“This is a pilot class, and ideally we want to offer it on a regular basis,” said Chris Rochette, who helped develop the program and serves as training manager at Bay Ship & Yacht Co., a full service shipyard. “We want this to coincide with our hiring cycle, so we would offer one class in the winter and one in the fall.”

There is no prerequisite to apply. “They’re supposed to go from zero experience to us hiring them,” he said. Alameda College instructors will teach most of the classes, and Bay Ship & Yacht employees will assist in the hands-on instruction.

“Those employees can get a good feel for the people in the class, and if they do well, the goal is for us to hire them. We are a second-chance employer, and this offers a really good opportunity for people to get back on their feet.”

The program is modeled after Seattle’s Harbor Island Training Center, which, like the Alameda program, is a joint venture between a shipbuilder, Vigor Industrial, and an educational institution, South Seattle Community College.

Harbor Island offers the two-quarter, 5-1/2-month Welding Intensive for Maritime & Manufacturing Environments program that is is taught onsite by industry professionals at Vigor’s shipyards.

“The purpose of this program is to keep this vital industry alive when many members of the workforce are aging out,” said Kevin Maloney director of communications for South Seattle College. “It gives students the marketable skills they need to earn a living wage.” The average salary for a graduate of the program is just over $45,000 per year.

Graduates have been hired by Vigor, but the skills they learn are applicable to jobs at any shipyard anywhere.

Vigor Industrial has a similar joint venture with Portland Community College, which opened its new Swan Island Trades Center last September. The welding classes are taught at the Vigor Industrial Welding Training Center at its Swan Island Ship Repair Yard.

East Coast programs

On the opposite end of the country, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association sponsors a six-week Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program that teaches a variety of entry-level skills, including painting, varnishing, rigging, forklift operation and shrink wrapping. These skills prepare graduates to be hired by area yacht builders and others.

As part of the program, which is held twice a year, students participate in a six-day job shadow with a local employer in an area of work that they are interested in.

Participants, who must be Rhode Island residents, attend sessions at various places throughout the state, including venues in Newport, Bristol and Portsmouth. The program is free to students, and those who don’t miss any days will receive $100 per week in compensation.

The Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program is funded through the Governor’s Workforce Board Rhode Island and has a 90% job placement rate for its graduates.

Another opportunity to get involved in maritime trades is a series of apprenticeship programs offered by Tidewater Community College and local maritime businesses in Suffolk, Va. These provide training for such positions as dock master, rigger, ship fitter, welder, electrician and painter. Participants take classes at the college and can earn an associate degree, in addition to gaining employment in the maritime industry.

The apprenticeship section of the Tidewater Community College’s website includes a list of companies that sponsor the apprenticeship programs. They range from BAE Systems and CDI Marine to Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Newport News Shipbuilding.

If you are interested in considering employment in the maritime industries, learning more about the programs in this article may be a good place to begin your search.

 

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One Comment

  1. Good afternoon,

    I am a probation officer in Los Angeles County. I am looking for jobs/ programs to refer probationers. There are many motivated to work, and consistently looking for work. I would appreciate any information you could give I order to assist probationers.

    Thank you,

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