The shortage of skilled workers in the maritime and other industries remains a problem in Hampton Roads. The Hampton Roads Workforce Council recently reinstated a program to support women while learning a new job skill to improve their lives, in part as a way to address the issue.
The council’s Women In Skilled Careers (WISC) program aids women who want to learn a skilled trade in such fields as welding, construction, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, engineering, and logistics, said WISC Program Manager ShanKrystal McCaulley.
The program offers childcare and transportation funding assistance, up to $1,500, while a woman is learning a new trade. A grant worth more than $700,000 from the United States Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, Employment and Training Administration, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, helps support the program. There are ten women currently enrolled. The goal is to have 100 women participate by September 2024, McCaulley said.
Skilled training is provided in established classes offered by such organizations as Huntington Ingalls Industries at Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia Peninsula Community College, Tidewater Community College, Old Dominion University, and others.
Companies like Huntington Ingalls are willing to provide such training programs because they are in need of skilled trades people.
“My contact in the human resources department at Huntington Ingalls said they have a shortage in about every department,” she said.
McCaulley said to help women select the right trade, field trips to industry sites are available.
“That is so they fully understand the work environment,” she said.
The program guarantees job interviews. Once women complete a training program and are hired, funds are offered for uniforms if needed. Plans are also to start a support group for participants in the program.
WISC’s eligibility requirements are women must be at least 18 years old, legal to work in the United States, and reside in Hampton Roads.
Women who are military veterans or coming out of homelessness, sex trafficking and abusive situations, live at or below federal poverty line, are given preference, she said. McCaulley also works with Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing to identify women who would benefit from the program.
The WISC program started in 2019, but, due to the pandemic, it was put on hold. Those who trained before 2020 still have jobs in the industry.
“We have received positive feedback from employers who hired women who participated in the pilot program in 2019,” she said. “Local employers, municipalities, and educational institutions have been receptive to the return of WISC.”
Feedback from participants is also positive.
“I have women who are currently enrolled in the program that shared they would’ve dropped out of the program without the support of WISC,” she said.
For more information on the WISC program, contact ShanKrystal McCaulley, WISC program manager, at 757-818-5558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.