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NEWS | Nov. 28, 2022

Navy Hosts First Welding Competition, Career Discovery Event for Virginia Talent Pipeline Program

By Team Submarine Public Affairs

HAMPTON, Va. – Nearly 300 students, representing 18 training providers, participated in the Virginia Talent Pipeline Project’s (VA TPP) inaugural Project MFG Welding Competition and Career Discovery Day at the Virginia Peninsula Community College, in Hampton, Va., Nov. 16.

The VA TPP is one of several training pipelines creating opportunities, building the workforce, and connecting more people to the Navy mission. The Project MFG Welding Competition and Career Discovery Day sought to engage and energize the Hampton Roads defense industrial base by developing the maritime-focused manufacturing talent pipeline in support of the Navy’s significant demand for critical trade skills.

“You are standing at an unbelievable inflection point, and an unbelievable intersection, of an opportunity to serve, and an opportunity for you, and your families, and your community,” said Matt Sermon, executive director for Naval Sea Systems Command’s Program Executive Office for Strategic Submarines, which oversees the Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) Program. Sermon spoke of a call to action to support manufacturing trades through partnership, aggressive recruiting, competitive pay, meaningful work, employers who care, and innovation. “We are going to do it!” he added.

The welding competition, hosted by Virginia Peninsula Community College and run by Project MFG, included 27 local competitors from area high schools and community and technical education (CTE) centers. Participants raced against a two-hour clock to weld miniature submarines, which were then pressure tested and scored.

A career day was held in parallel to the welding competition. The students spoke with potential employers to learn about their role in the defense industrial base and available opportunities in critical shipbuilding and ship sustainment trades. Program participants also had the chance to gain exposure through tours of Newport News Shipbuilding, Fairlead Boat Works, and Advex Corporation.

Gene Garland, military outreach coordinator for Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s office, spoke with the students, outlining the National Imperative for Industrial Skills. “The pipeline is one of 12 national imperatives for skilled industry, focuses on small and medium-sized business, and is an economic development initiative that will create and sustain the maritime force.” Garland encouraged CTE candidates to seek employment in the shipbuilding industry.

Scott Dodsworth, a graduate of the New Horizons Regional Education Center, also addressed the students, sharing his career path with local supplier Fairlead. After completing his welding program, he went from welder helper to second class welder fitter, and has been with the company for three years. He stated that his training and job opportunity “brought me to a great place in my life.”

The Navy’s SIB Program is addressing trade skill gaps impacting the Navy’s success in building and maintaining Navy platforms and systems. A network of regional training systems and state pipelines are being implemented to address those workforce gaps impacting shipbuilders and suppliers in maritime centers. Hiring new, skilled employees and building bench strength in our existing workforce requires a networked community and innovative approaches to train and employ skilled workers. 

For more information on the Virginia Talent Pipeline Project,