Delgado ‘Doubles Down’ on Rapid Workforce Development

Advanced Manufacturing Center student trains at machinist workstation.

Two campuses. One mission. Providing fast, flexible, and focused training that matches skill sets needed by industry is how Delgado Community College is responding to the aging workforce and major shortfalls in qualified workers.

Whether or not a business can grow and accept a major contract depends upon the ability to recruit or cultivate a competent workforce — deckhands, engineers, and welders alike. As a rapid response, Delgado Community College (DCC) in New Orleans is making a difference now by tailoring educational programs and facilities for the maritime industry that allow workers to ‘learn while they earn.’ 

Delgado is not your typical community college with two-year programs. With an enrollment exceeded only by Louisiana State University, DCC’s Maritime and Industrial Training Center — already in its fourth decade on the east bank of the river — has been joined by a new 80,000 ft2 River City Campus on the west bank. With $27.3 million dollars in funding from federal, state, and private sources, this River City Campus includes a new Advanced Manufacturing Center. 

“We’re meeting industry’s needs in weeks, not years. It’s a laser approach; we listen to what the maritime industry needs and then deliver modular training that is competency-based and assesses a student’s readiness for work.”

Why such dramatic growth? DCC’s new Chancellor Larissa Littleton-Steib, Ph.D explained, “[What programs we offer are] really based on the need of industry. We have advisory boards that sit on every program to advise us what the workforce needs are so that we are training in real time. Our training is relevant and with the latest technology.” 

Chancellor Littleton-Steib refers to the successful use of corporate advisory boards, such as the two that advise MITC — a maritime steering advisory board and an industrial one. At the Advanced Manufacturing Center on the River City campus, the welding, machinist, and diesel engine programs each have their own advisory committees weighing in on the relevance of the program structure.

“I don’t tell them what they want, they tell me what they need,” said Rick Schwab, executive director of the Maritime and Industrial Training Center since 1998 and now the interim executive director of the Advanced Manufacturing Center. By ‘they,’ Schwab refers not only to the advisory committees, but also the twenty new partners that are working with him as educational programming is expanded on the west bank or River City campus. 

Industry advisors have asked for cradle-to-grave training programs that can gain or refresh skills sets for any level of career. “We’re meeting industry’s needs in weeks, not years,” Schwab said. “It’s a laser approach; we listen to what the maritime industry needs and then deliver modular training that is assesses competency and a student’s readiness for work.” 

The eastern MITC facility, which opened a new 19,000 ft2 facility and added 3.3 acres to the original footprint in 2016, offers USCG-approved training in fire fighting, safety, galley cooking, maritime security, and much more. State-of-the-art simulators, operated under the guidance of experienced captains, provide early- and advanced-career mariners with hands-on training needed to achieve licensing, Simulators are tailored to train the gambit from inland and offshore wheelhouse simulation to running a light boat in the IntraCoastal Canal or pushing 30 loaded barges southbound in the Mississippi River with a 6000HP towboat. 

The Advanced Manufacturing Center on the west bank campus expands the offerings that support companies serving the maritime industry. It trains everyone from diesel mechanics to machinists, and from carpenters to pipefitters and welders. 

With east bank and west bank campuses combined, Delgado Community College is now serving over 8,000 students from just the Maritime and Industrial Training Center and Advanced Manufacturing Center programs. This is a long way from the fifteen-student programs that MARAD ran in the 1970s.

By Professional Mariner Staff