By Joe Garvey

Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday that Virginia has received a $5 million Department of Defense (DoD) grant to train workers for Virginia's defense manufacturing industries in Hampton Roads and Danville.

The grant will go to Old Dominion University's Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem (MIBE) and the Virginia Defense Manufacturing Community, which brings together the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Southern Virginia.

"This award underscores Old Dominion University's commitment to excellence in academic, innovation and workforce development programs supporting Virginia's maritime industry," said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.

With the $5 million, the Virginia Defense Manufacturing Community will create a K-12-to-university training pipeline, helping students in the Norfolk and Danville areas gain the skills needed for defense manufacturing industries. It will ensure Virginia has the advanced workforce these industries require. The training pipeline will increase manufacturing capacity, capability, resiliency and diversity in the maritime defense industrial base.

"Our maritime defense manufacturing industry is vital to the nation's security and a critical part of our economy," Northam said. "Virginia is a recognized leader in defense manufacturing. This groundbreaking partnership will help diversify and modernize the nation's best maritime workforce to build and sustain the world's best Navy, while providing young people a pathway toward fulfilling jobs in a high-tech, well-paid industry."

"This initiative presents a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our country's defense workforce," Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs said. "The entire grant development process required and fostered collaboration among federal, state, and local entities as well as private businesses, academia, and regional economic alliances. We're excited about the investment in the future beginning with Virginia's youngest learners."

The project will create a Manufacturing Engineering Technology community college-to-university pathway that awards credentials to manufacturing engineers.

Students will be introduced to the manufacturing workforce opportunities in elementary school. As they get older, they will have access to curriculums related to their preferred manufacturing discipline and to employment opportunities at the high school, community college and university levels.

"We are eager to extend our advanced manufacturing training and engineering programs across the commonwealth in order to advance Virginia's maritime workforce to industry 4.0 standards and beyond," Institute for Advanced Learning and Research Executive Director Mark Gignac said. "We aim to integrate K-12, community college and university programs with cutting-edge training resources to deliver the strongest, most diverse and most adaptable manufacturing workforce."

"We look forward to building the highly successful Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers program in the Hampton Roads region," said Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem Co-Chairman Eric Weisel, who also serves as executive director of ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), and Vice Admiral Herman Shelanski (USN-ret.). "The opportunities this program provides will be key to continually growing the nation's most capable maritime workforce and to continuing implementation of the most advanced Industry 4.0 and 5.0 technologies. Combined with strong and growing partnerships, we seek to create the maritime industrial base workforce of tomorrow to build and sustain the world's best Navy and bolster our economy."

The grant will be invested over federal fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense awarded $474,000 to MIBE, which seeks to transform the shipbuilding and ship repair workforce with modernized and sustained maritime training pipelines. The funding was awarded by the DoD Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) through their industry resilience program. That award was part of a $1.5 million grant to support maritime industrial base and small defense business cyber training.


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