April 1, 2019
From agreements that guarantee local hiring to classes that nurture maritime professionals of the future, seaports along the west coast play a critical role in a region's workforce development, often times teaming up with the public and private sectors to do it.
In Long Beach, training began in February for the first cohorts participating in the inaugural Maritime Center of Excellence at Long Beach City College.
The program, which the Port of Long Beach agreed to support in its first year, allows community members interested in a career in the global logistics and supply chain industries to attend short-term, fee-based training classes offered through the college's Workforce Development program.
Last year, the port was the first industry partner to participate in the Long Beach College Promise, a commitment by the city's three public education institutions to provide students a pathway at every grade level to attend and complete college. It was vital to get buy-in from the port, which handles $194 billion in trade annually and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. The port's support of the maritime center was done in the spirit of that promise.
"This workforce training will help educate our community and students to learn cutting-edge skills and relevant knowledge to meet the needs of local employers, and to prepare them for careers in high-demand occupations," said Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Sunny Zia. "This training will align to jobs at the port and other port-related industries immediately after graduation which will result in a community that can study, work and live in Long Beach."
The classes focus on global logistics and supply chain industry jobs that need more education than a high school diploma, but less than a college degree. They include training for jobs in supply chain customer service, foundational logistics, dispatching for logistics, intermediary logistics, supervisory transportation operations, international transportation and U.S. Customs, and supervisory goods management.
Careers in these industries are on the rise and give workers an average earning potential of $63,130 a year, about 14 percent more than all other sectors in Southern California, according to the port.
"This groundbreaking partnership will truly change the lives of our community members," said LBCC President Dr. Reagan Ferragamo Romali. "I'm delighted that this center is finally open to provide training that will transition students from LBCC to an industry that needs skilled workers."
At other seaports, officials recognize education's role in workforce development. In February, the Port of Coos Bay announced that it plans to bestow two $500 scholarships to local graduating seniors going to an Oregon trade school, community college or university.
Students residing or attending a school within the port district may apply, especially those pursuing trades or skills related to the maritime, rail, or trade and logistics industries.
The port has also established a new process for community giving and donations, which reviews requests for donations and event sponsorships and is awarded on a quarterly basis if selected.
"A healthy economy requires investment in the next generation and community," says Port CEO John Burns. "These programs allow us to support the economic future and vitality of the community we live and work in."
The Port of Tacoma also participates in a wide variety of career fairs across Pierce County, most aimed at middle or high school students with hands-on activities that introduce them to career paths in the trades, environmental stewardship, engineering and other positions.
The port's human resources staff also takes part in recruitment fairs at colleges and universities across the region.
The Tacoma port partners with Tacoma Public Schools to revive an apprenticeship program, working through the state of Washington's apprenticeship oversight arm (Department of Labor and Industries) to finalize the formation of the apprenticeship. The port hopes to start placing candidates in the program later this year, according to Katie Whittier, Port of Tacoma and Northwest Seaport Alliance Communications Director.
Speaking of partnerships, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka in January said that partnerships in workforce development will be an area of focus in 2019.
He spoke of two initiatives in particular: a new training program for longshore labor and the creation of HR Directors Cohort.
The port is teaming up with the Pacific Maritime Association and the ILWU on a pilot program to train casuals on how to lash containers more safely and effectively.
The program, made possible with $600,000 in grant funding, took nearly two years to put together and consists of curriculum and equipment that will simulate actual conditions on a container ship, said Avin Sharma, director of labor relations and workforce development for the Port of Los Angeles.
"It's a new innovative way on training around lashing, Sharma said, adding that the work of securing containers will play a more significant role as bigger ships carrying more cargo come to the port. "It's an area we wanted to focus on because better training around lashing can hopefully provide a safer environment."
The pilot program is expected to run its first group of longshore trainees at a local PMA training facility as early as March, Sharma said.
Meanwhile, the port is in the process assembling the HR Directors Cohort, which would provide a chance for "workforce development professionals to come together, share best practices, access resources together, and make the best of opportunities to assist companies in the port that have specific workforce hiring or training needs," Seroka said.
Project Labor Agreements
The Port of Hueneme embarked on its first project labor agreement in its 81-year history last December.
The agreement prioritizes union hiring on projects greater than $250,000 for the next three years, gives preference to veterans through the "Helmets to Hardhats" program and requires that at least 30 percent of all construction labor hours must be given first to Oxnard and Port Hueneme-area residents before extending those work opportunities to Ventura County residents and those in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.
The project labor agreement will also apply to "all construction, abatement, demolition, renovation, rehabilitation, upgrade and improvement work and new construction projects to be performed under a contract with the port, as well as all subcontracts flowing from those contracts," according to the port.
"This agreement will provide good paying jobs for our local trades," said Port CEO and Director Kristin Decas. "It provides access to a reliable supply of well-trained, highly-skilled workers and helps keep projects on time and on budget. This is a real win-win for the port, our labor force, and the community."
IBEW Local 952 President Tony Skinner, who was on hand on sign the historic agreement with Decas, thanked the port and Harbor commissioners for their leadership to make it happen.
"This PLA will go a long way in putting our local people to work, expanding our apprenticeship programs, and giving our returning veterans a place to work when they come home." he said.
The Port of Hueneme is the latest seaport to embrace project labor agreements as a way to help develop a local workforce. Other seaports, including the ports of Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles and Long Beach, were early adopters of the agreement.
At the Port of Oakland, project labor agreements are a great way to ensure a strong local workforce. For example, about 60 percent of the work done on a rail yard project at the former Oakland Army Base was done mostly by Oakland residents. The project also used several local contractors.
Oakland's PLA covers any maritime and aviation project costing more than $150,000 and mandates that half the project hours and 20 percent of apprenticeship hours be done by residents living either in port-adjacent cities Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro and Emeryville, or in the business area of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
The Oakland port also set up a social justice trust fund paid into by contractors for local nonprofits that support workforce development.
For the Port of Hueneme, its new agreement makes good on its commitment to local hiring.
"The port's priority has always been to hire contractors and labor from our local community, the PLA formalizes this priority and ensures that our projects directly support our local workers and families," said Oxnard Harbor District President Mary Anne Rooney. "We are eager to continue moving the port forward as the leading provider of homegrown good-paying jobs, real ladders of economic opportunity, and strong environmental leadership for our community."