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Starting this Fall, students and adult learners can take courses in welding from Oregon Coast Community College, thanks to a partnership with the Port of Toledo, Northwest Oregon Works and the Lincoln County School District.

The Port of Toledo was the lead applicant in a $261,285 Maritime Administration Small Shipyard Grant Application to the U.S. Department of Transportation. On Wednesday, June 12, the partners learned that the grant had been awarded.

“Since I arrived at the College in 2014, I have heard from industry and community about the need for welding and maritime workforce training,” OCCC President Dr. Birgitte Ryslinge said. “Through this private-public collaboration we start building, rather than importing, our future maritime-industrial workforce. This means high-skilled, high-wage jobs for Lincoln County residents, and boosts our collective economy.

“It is truly wonderful to be among such collaborative and forward-thinking leaders here in Lincoln County. We can’t wait to see our future welders practicing in the Shipyard Vocational Training Lab.”

To kick start the program, the Port of Toledo will invest $87,096 in remodeling an existing space into a 12-bay welding training lab within the Toledo Shipyard’s Industrial Park. The grant will provide about $261,285 to outfit that space with equipment.

That lab space will be available beginning this fall for Newport High School, Siletz and Eddyville students through the OCCC program. An existing welding program between the Port, Toledo High School and Waldport High School students will continue, because they can take introductory welding training at those schools and can then qualify for the internships.

Initially, the Maritime Construction Program will focus on the development and delivery of welding courses, which will eventually lead to a shipbuilding certificate, which the College will begin developing in the fall working in conjunction with the Port of Toledo.

Northwest Oregon Works will provide the initial funding of the welding faculty in this program.

“We are particularly excited about what this project means to our coastal community,” said Bud Shoemake, Port Manager at the Port of Toledo, who spearheaded the grant-writing effort. “This year we partnered with the Lincoln County School District and had high school students from both Waldport and Toledo working as interns in our shipyard. These schools both have industrial programs, which have allowed their students to progress into the internship.

“The vocational welding lab will provide students at the other high schools in Lincoln County the same opportunity to participate in industrial training. Partnering with OCCC opens the program to everyone else in the county. The welding lab, adjacent to our shipyard, will provide students with practical shipyard welding experience.”

Shoemake noted that Sen. Ron Wyden and others throughout Oregon’s congressional delegation have been strongly supportive of this grant, and prior grants like the one that funded the Port’s recent boatlift expansion.

At the same time as the program gets rolling in Toledo, the college will begin teaching welding classes at Taft High School after school, thanks to funding support from the district. The welding courses will be available to both community members and high school students from within Lincoln County.

“The Lincoln County School District is committed to partnering with Oregon Coast Community College and local industry partners in using its High School Success funds and resources to expand career and technical education programs to support students and workforce development for our communities and families,” Dr. Karen Gray, LCSD Superintendent said. “We are already appreciative of the Port of Toledo’s efforts to provide our students with on-the-job training and experience and look forward to the expansion of our partnership.”

Meeting a need

According to information from the grant application, the expansion the Port’s shipyard has experienced over the past five years has made port officials aware of the critical need for a skilled maritime work force. Currently the Port recruits skilled workers nationwide and contracts for temporary skilled marine welders.

With the exception of the Port’s present partnership with Lincoln County School District to provide a shipyard workplace educational resource, there are currently no Maritime Workforce Education programs offered neither within Lincoln County nor on the central Oregon Coast. Consequently, the qualified labor pool for the Port of Toledo is very limited.

With a workforce totaling nearly 19,000 in 2017 and average wages exceeding most other industries, Oregon’s maritime sector supports many family-wage jobs in Oregon. The sector is expected to continue adding new jobs, creating the need for more workers. Oregon’s maritime workforce is also aging.

A large share of the current workforce will retire or change careers within the next 10 years, creating replacement openings for new workers. These workforce trends represent challenges for employers trying to fill their job vacancies, as well as more job opportunities for Oregonians in the maritime sector.

Currently students at only two of Lincoln County’s six high schools have access to industrial career training at their schools, due to the lack of facilities. The Lincoln County School District will use the Shipyard Vocational Training Lab to provide students from all its high schools the opportunity to receive industrial welding training.

“The Northwest Oregon Works team is dedicated to meeting the needs of employers and jobseekers in Lincoln County and throughout our five-county region,” Heather DeSart, executive director of NOW said. “This program is a perfect example of one cost-effective collaboration that is going to directly benefit employers and local industry while arming participants with real-world, career-ready skills. We are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Register or learn more

Anyone interested in learning more about the program can call 541-867-8501 or watch the College’s website, oregoncoastcc.org. High school students may contact OCCC or their school’s counseling staff for more details, and can watch for additional information on the District website.

Oregon Coast Community College is in its 32nd year of service to Lincoln County, with facilities in Waldport, Lincoln City and Newport. The College offers two-year transfer degrees, Associate Degrees, and a variety of degree and certificate programs in Health and Human Services, Business, Teaching, and Aquarium Science.

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