PORT HUENEME, Calif. –
Senior-level educators from Ventura County recently toured Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division’s (NSWC PHD) facilities as part of a broad initiative to possibly match curriculum taught at local schools with career opportunities at the command.
The educators — including principals, community college presidents, curriculum specialists and a chancellor — came from a broad swath of local academia, ranging from the Santa Paula Unified School District and Oxnard Union High School District to Ventura County Community College District, including Ventura College and Oxnard College.
NSWC PHD has a robust program that reaches out to local schools to draw a diverse group of students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through robotics competitions, academic decathlons, a hackathon and career fairs at local colleges and high schools, and other events to expose the students to career opportunities.
All school districts and colleges that attended the tour have Educational Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with NSWC PHD.
EPAs allow the command to share information, equipment, personnel and facilities with various academic partners — from elementary to college-level institutions — and promote NSWC PHD as an attractive potential employer to students.
The tour was designed to show off what NSWC PHD has to offer, and let the educators see firsthand the high-tech equipment and facilities, machinery and other programs that could draw students to the command.
“We want to grow our pipeline,” said NSWC PHD Technical Director Jeffrey Koe in the presentation to educators during the event.
Within the command’s workforce of more than 3,500, there are roughly 950 engineers, scientists and technicians — leaving many non-STEM opportunities for local students in areas such as logistics, business and finance.
“We’d like educators to consider how we can bridge their classrooms to our workforce,” said Mike Ladner, NSWC PHD deputy technical director.
NSWC PHD is the largest of three warfare employers on Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), with a more than $1 billion annual budget, contributing nearly $638 million to the local economy, according to figures that Ramon Flores, the command’s STEM coordinator, disclosed at the meeting.
The tour group stopped at the command’s Fathomwerx Lab, the Underway Replenishment (UNREP) test site, Mission Package Support Facility (MPSF), the Self Defense Test Ship and the test ship’s remote control center in the Surface Warfare Engineering Facility.
A comprehensive tour of the command provided ideas to the educators for potential curriculum that aligns to real-world work.
At Fathomwerx, Nick Willis, who runs the mixed reality lab and its augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) programs, handed a headset to Ventura College President Kimberly Hoffmans to demonstrate how it could be used to fix cooling equipment on a warship.
“It looks like you could go down that little hatch there,” Hoffmans said as she pointed to a hatch within a 3D environment that the VR headset created to fix a warship’s chiller system. “It’s surreal; I feel like I’m in a completely different environment.”
Hoffmans said she could envision some forthcoming changes in her college’s applied career education pathways. She cited use of the VR headset as a possible tool for nursing and paramedics studies and welding, automotive and diesel mechanics training programs.
Christina Gonzalez, director of college and career readiness and student achievement with Santa Paula Unified School District, tried on the VR headset and saw immediate possibilities in her district’s own curriculum.
Gonzalez said she plans to pull together staff in her department to discuss possible changes to curriculum to create new pathways for students with some of the career opportunities that she observed at NSWC PHD.
“I run six career pathways for students, and this has been helpful to understand what the Navy needs as we build our own curriculum,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll meet with our teachers and make sure our curriculum is relevant, and that our students have mentors and intern opportunities to tap into.”
During the UNREP test site visit, Branch Manager Ken Guinto explained that the division is constantly looking to hire engineers, logisticians and electrical and mechanical technicians to support the Navy’s mission.
“That’s our biggest need now,” Guinto said. “It takes years of training and awareness to operate our systems.”
Guinto made his remarks to the group of 21 educators at the UNREP test site, where technicians and others were training on systems used to deliver munitions, supplies and personnel to ships as well as fuel via fuel hoses when two ships are connected by tensioned wire rope.
On the sidelines of the tour of MPSF, where combat systems modules are stored and pulled out to exchange aboard littoral combat ships, Oscar Cobian, acting president of Oxnard College, said he was impressed by the activities he saw.
“I’m envisioning how our students could benefit from some of these projects,” Cobian said.
Rick MacLennan, chancellor of Ventura County Community College District — which includes Ventura College, Moorpark College and Oxnard College — said his college district is interested in discussions with NSWC PHD leaders about creating a deeper workforce supply relationship.
“Getting trained here and working here is our goal,” MacLennan said, referring to college students’ possible employment with the command.
“I want to align our mission to provide support for the command’s workforce needs,” he said. “This is [one of] the largest employers in Ventura County, so we need to pay attention and look at what we can do to support NBVC.”