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Danville part of $5M Department of Defense grant to train shipbuilding workers

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A $5 million Department of Defense grant will help train shipbuilding workers in Danville.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the funding last week to help the state’s manufacturing industries. Danville and Hampton Roads will benefit from the money, a news release stated.

The funds will funnel to the Virginia Defense Manufacturing Community, which brings together the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and Old Dominion University’s Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem.

The goal is to create a training pipeline at the K-12 and university level. Programs will help students in Danville and Norfolk learn the skills needed for defense manufacturing.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The initiative will introduce students to the manufacturing workforce at the elementary school level, the release stated. As students move through grade levels, they’ll have classes available to fine-tune their skills. Eventually, they’ll have job opportunities in high school, community college or at a university.

“Our maritime defense manufacturing industry is vital to the nation’s security and a critical part of our economy,” Northam said in the release. “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.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner highlighted a shortage of skilled workers in the defense industry at an Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing Summit at the Institute in August.

“The whole notion of manufacturing today is fundamentally different than it was ... five to eight years ago,” Warner told a group of community leaders then.

The institute is leading a three-year pilot project to develop, exercise and evaluate the accelerated training program as a potential platform for a network of regional training centers across the United States.

The summit introduced those programs that included the accelerated training program and the National Imperative for Industrial Skills, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Defense in March 2020.

“This initiative presents a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our country’s defense workforce,” said Acting Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Kathleen Jabs. “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 grant will be invested over federal fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

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