Shared Quarters Maritime Conference addresses tackling workforce challenges

06.14.2018 | By JeanniePengMansyur

A full album of the two-day conference can be viewed online at:

Two-day conference featured panel discussions on topics to address mariner shortages

PASADENA, Texas – Maritime professionals and educators from across the United States recently convened at San Jacinto College to discuss solutions for a growing problem, recruiting and training mariners to alleviate a workforce shortage already underway.

The Shared Quarters Maritime Conference took place at the San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center on June 5, and at Texas A&M University at Galveston on June 6. Port Houston Chairman Janiece Longoria and Capt. Bill Diehl, president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau, served as keynote speakers. Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) and Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22) attended along with San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer to honor Rep. Gene Green (TX-29) for his 20 years of service in Congress.

The conference featured speakers and attendees from community colleges, universities and maritime companies from across the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. Topics included the maritime workforce and military crosswalks, new workforce programs, maritime logistics, college alignments, port management and updates from industry and education.

“The challenge we’re facing is the aging workforce, and we see this in our offices and the maritime industry as a whole,” said Andrew Cameron, communications and membership assistant with American Association of Port Authorities in Virginia. “I think the key takeaway from this conference is the value of the partnerships and how to form them and tackle the issue of workforce training and recruiting.”

Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi is tackling the issue is by partnering with local colleges. But rather than calling it a partnership, Dr. Jason Pugh, executive vice president of teaching and learning with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), calls it “one in the same.” Garry Mercer, apprentice program manager with Ingalls Shipbuilding, said Ingalls and MGCCC have been working together for decades to prepare the local workforce, with the college having a physical location at the Ingalls’ site. 

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount of what is being done here along Port Houston; we all have the same need for workers in the middle skills,” said Mercer. “It’s a nationwide problem, and we have to do a better job at filling that gap.”

Sierra Callis, a journey-level welder fitter turned workforce development supervisor with Vigor Alaska, said the conference reassured her that partnerships often lead to more successful outcomes when it comes to training workers in the craft trades.

“This helps give us an idea that we’re on the right track in Alaska,” said Callis. “We’re doing a good job pairing with our education partners and collaborating as a state, having that community.”

In 2017, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence legislation as part of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).This authorizes federal support for two-year community and technical colleges, allowing the colleges to expand their capacity to train domestic maritime workers by admitting more students, training faculty, expanding facilities, creating new maritime career pathways from associate degree to baccalaureate degree programs, and awarding credit for prior learning experience, including military service. 

The Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Gene Green and co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36), Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22), and Rep. Ted Poe (TX-2).  The Senate version of the legislation was co-sponsored by Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

“What we wanted with the Shared Quarters Maritime Conference was to bring together maritime professionals and educators to discuss the issues facing the industry and ways that we as maritime educators can help meet the industry’s growing needs to compete globally,” said John Stauffer, associate vice chancellor and superintendent of maritime at San Jacinto College. “I think we accomplished that and took this conversation to the national level to emphasis the importance of collaboration between colleges, universities and industry.”

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.