Booming Demand for Women in the Skilled Workforce

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council’s Women in Skilled Careers (WISC) initiative is an industry-driven program that attempts to bring women into the Ship Repair industry. WISC provides employability skills, entry-level technical trade skills, and industry-specific training through an intensive 9-week session.

One of the most unique aspects of WISC is the target audience: not just women, but those who have overcome enormous barriers such as homelessness, domestic violence, human trafficking, and poverty. WISC partners with community organizations like the United Way, YWCA, and Samaritan House to provide supportive services such as transportation, childcare, and mental health services to participants in need.

This groundbreaking program features 4 weeks of “soft skills,” or employability training, with an emphasis on industry familiarization, which features weekly shipyard tours. Following the soft skills, participants enter the Virginia Ship Repair Association Marine Trade Training program for their chosen skill. Some of these skills include welding, pipefitting, electrical, coatings, outside machinist, or sheet metal. The VSRA MTT courses, facilitated by local community college partners, provide entry-level trade skills in an environment that mimics a shipyard.

Following MTT, participants receive OSHA 10 Hour Maritime, Emergency First Response, and Introductory Blueprint Reading & Technical Drawing training. Upon completion of the program, a group of VSRA Member Companies have signed on as partners to guarantee that successful program participants will be interviewed for open job positions. Ameri-Force Craft Services, Inc. is one of the proud partners to employ these hardworking graduates.

This week, I had the privilege to speak with the upcoming graduating class. We discussed their desired trade, previous experience, and what motivates them. What was most impressive to me is that every single student was actively engaged in the conversation. They were not there learning for any other reason than to better themselves, expand their opportunities, gain excitement from working with their hands, and ready to prove what it is like to, “work like a girl.”

Expanding the visibility of women who are already in the industry is a huge part of increasing the number of women interested in the trades. I am very excited to stay connected with these students along their journey, and ready to hire any or all of them to represent Ameri-Force. Our industry recognizes the value of introducing women to the incredible career pathways that exist within the skilled trades. We are dedicated to working with our company partners to ensure these programs are successful for years to come.

Leslie McAloose has served as the Director of Operations, Mid-Atlantic region for Ameri-Force since 2018. Her background in maritime recruiting began in 2012 and led her to a long-time role with Colonna’s Shipyard. Leslie has first-hand deckplate experience and a strong rapport with regional shipbuilders and craftsmen. Leslie is a graduate of Old Dominion University.

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