NWTC receives nearly $600,000 grant to address urgent shipbuilder shortage

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New Welding Rodeo initiative to propel talent pool of shipbuilders
New Welding Rodeo initiative to propel talent pool of shipbuilders

In response to the urgent demand for skilled shipbuilders, NWTC has been awarded a substantial grant of $579,181 from the Department of Navy’s (DoN) Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education and Workforce Program. This initiative aims to attract and grow a new talent pool to bridge the workforce gap in Northeast Wisconsin’s shipbuilding sector. 

Home to six of the Great Lakes’ eight shipbuilders, Northeast Wisconsin’s shipbuilding industry is grappling with a shortage of qualified workers to meet the rising demand. Compared to the 296 vessels that exist today, the U.S. Navy’s 30-year plan proposes up to 404 manned and 204 large, unmanned vessels in the naval fleet.

“As the maritime sector continues to grow, NWTC remains at the forefront of this expansion. Yet, to navigate the industry’s evolving landscape, we need to anticipate and embrace the challenges ahead,” said Meridith Jaeger, NWTC Vice President of College Advancement.

About NWTC’s Welding Rodeo

With this grant funding, NWTC will launch the Welding Rodeo: Experiences in STEM Education program. This will entail a series of events designed to promote welding careers and attract a new talent pool. These events include STEM career fairs, hands-on welding workshops, welding competitions for every skill level, and a metal sculpture contest with proceeds funding scholarships.

“The Welding Rodeo not only addresses the immediate demands of our growing maritime industry, but also serves as a blueprint for other skilled trades to thrive, across our region and beyond. This initiative will not only bridge the gap between talent and opportunity; it forges new connections between communities and the maritime sector,” said Jaeger.

The Welding Rodeo is projected to begin by fall 2024 with annual events taking place in both Marinette and Sturgeon Bay. Further information about each event will be released at that time.

A collaborative initiative

The Welding Rodeo will be held within the communities of NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay and Marinette Campuses, home to Fincantieri Marine Group shipyards and many other influential maritime employers.

NWTC's industry partners will be key collaborators in the Welding Rodeo, actively contributing to its mission and driving success.

Dating back to World War II, NWTC has collaborated closely with the maritime sector; offering tailored training to shipbuilders and working with workforce development to grow the industry.

In recent years, NWTC has played a critical role in the expansion of the shipbuilding workforce, training nearly 15,000 new hires and incumbent workers through its North Coast Marine Manufacturing Training Center. The College holds a longstanding partnership with Fincantieri Marinette Marine and has recently expanded to also provide specialized training through NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay campus for Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.

NWTC offers tailored training at dedicated shipyard facilities in Marinette and Sturgeon Bay. These facilities, staffed by expert instructors, will continue to support the rise in contracts for U.S. Navy vessels.

“We are very grateful to NWTC for continuing to explore and implement innovative training programs across our region. This particular initiative will support welding careers for our concentrated shipbuilding industry. Hands-on learning, supported by friendly competition will help to attract new talent to the industry, says Barb LaMue, President & CEO of the New North, Inc.

Further details about the Welding Rodeo will be provided as it becomes available. To stay updated, visit nwtc.edu and follow our social media channels @NWTC.

Explore opportunities in welding and other rewarding careers. Check out nwtc.edu to soar higher!  

The Welding Rodeo is sponsored by the Department of Navy, Office of Naval Research under ONR award number N00014-23-S-F001. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.

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