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April Speaker: Senator Frank Wagner

On Tuesday, April 21, the VSRA General Membership Luncheon was held at the Portsmouth Renaissance Hotel. The speaker for the event was Senator Frank W. Wagner from the 7th District of the Virginia Senate. Senator Wagner has served the 7th Senatorial District in Virginia Beach since December 2000.

Senator Wagner discussed at length the VSRA Pre-Hire Marine Trades Training Program, a two-week immersive course designed to train entry-level workers for jobs in the ship repair Industry. The program was initially developed by Newport News Shipbuilding as a partnership with Virginia's Community Colleges, and was taken over by VSRA when Newport News Shipbuilding began a hiring freeze. In 2014, VSRA successfully ran six pilot courses, two in electrical and four in coatings, training 29 individuals in trade skills. In October, Bill Crow, President of the VSRA, met with Senator Wagner and discussed the Pre-Hire Program as a model for trades training that could potentially be copied across the state in a variety of industries.

Following his conversation with Mr. Crow, Senator Wagner presented the Pre-Hire Marine Trades Training Program to the Virginia Senate as an amendment to the FY16 State Budget for funding. The General Assembly approved the budget in March, awarding the VSRA partnership with Virginia's Community Colleges $250,000 annually over the two-year budget period to fund the program.

In explaining the logistics and model for the training program, Senator Wagner enthused that VSRA had "set a heck of a precedent" in innovative entry-level training, and that he could envision a scenario in which "Bill and his team will be going all around the state" to spread this idea to other industrial sectors.

Additionally, Senator Wagner discussed his views on the EPA's carbon limits, describing them as unfair to Virginians. He explained that under the new regulations, Virginia would have to shutter four or five coal plants, equaling a write-off of billions of dollars of gap funding and raising power rates for businesses and residences state-wide. Senator Wagner informed the membership that the Senate is currently discussing a bill that would reject the EPA's limits, and would declare that no coal plants will be shuttered for five years. The bill would also call for a five-percent rate reduction for Dominion Power's residential customers.

Finally, the Senator discussed Virginia's transportation needs. He announced several significant projects in the works, including a widening of Interstate-64 from Jefferson Avenue to Fort Eustis and major repairs to Interstate-264. This, he explained, will provide a "much better gateway for those travelling to our area."

Senator Wagner finished his discussion by reminding the membership that he has been around the ship repair Industry his entire life and promising to continue to do "the things that make sense" as a representative of Virginia's 7th Senatorial District.

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