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Featured Article: Hampton Roads Workforce Council Offers Opportunities for Women in Ship Repair


In January, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council launched the Women in Skilled Careers (WISC) program — a 12-week program offering six training tracks: Maritime Coating, Maritime Electrical, Maritime Welding, Outside Machinist, Sheet Metal Fabrication, and Pipefitting. A partnership with Virginia Ship Repair Association, Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Camp Community College, United Way of South Hampton Roads, and WHRO, the WISC program provides an opportunity for participants to obtain industry-recognized credentials and receive paid work experience.

The program targets women who are veterans and military spouses; women affected by homelessness, domestic violence, and/or human trafficking; and women earning at or below the federal poverty line. Participants may also receive transportation and child-care assistance.

“Women are often underrepresented in growing industry clusters, such as ship repair — signaling the increased need for programs that provide them with a variety of career paths in the skilled trades,” said Latonya English, Deputy Director, Virginia Career Works Norfolk Center. “We are excited about the WISC program and the promise it holds to remove longstanding barriers to employment for women in Hampton Roads, while also addressing the region’s need for a highly trained and qualified workforce to support in-demand industries of the 21st century.”

The first cohort launched in January of this year and consisted of eight women, including Danielle Campbell. Campbell was interested in welding in high school but decided to pursue a different career path.

“I loved it, but it wasn’t a career field for women then,” said Campbell. 

Prior to entering the WISC program, Campbell was enrolled in another workforce program, but it did not provide employment opportunities at the shipyards.  She was later referred to the WISC program.  

“A lot of women are struggling and they can’t make the amount they need to make to take care of their families and still live,” said Campbell. “So, [the WISC program] is empowering. You have a whole career. [The Hampton Roads Workforce Council] pays you and pays for your school. There’s no excuse at this point.”

Danielle is just one example of the tremendous success of this program. She is currently employed full-time with benefits at Bay Metals and Fabrication.  To date, seven out of the eight participants from the first cohort are now employed full-time with benefits at various VSRA Member Companies in the region, including Colonna’s Shipyard.  Additionally, all eight women earned at least one American Welding Society (AWS) certification. In total, the group earned 33 certifications.

The second cohort, which launched in early March, has 18 participants. To ensure the health and safety of participants and staff, the program is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will resume as soon as elected officials lift social distancing mandates.

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council would like to especially thank the Virginia Ship Repair Association and its members for supporting the WISC program by offering site tours, participating as guest speakers, attending networking events, and extending job opportunities to participants amid this time of uncertainty.


Ali Broemeling is the Coordinator of the Women in Skilled Careers (WISC) program for the Hampton Roads Workforce Council. Ali is a project manager with experience in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and is a military spouse of 13 years. She recently relocated to Hampton Roads and is excited to be a part of building a pipeline for more women to enter the ship repair industry.


The WISC program is fully funded by a $500,000 grant from the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. The Hampton Roads Workforce Council is one of three organizations in the country to receive a portion of the nearly $1.5 million funding awarded through the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program. For more information or to apply to the program, visit www.vcwhamptonroads.org. 

For program information or to apply for the WISC Program contact: Ali Broemeling, ABroemeling@VCWHamptonRoads.org, (757) 629-4677
For companies wishing to become WISC program employers contact: Barbara Washer,
BWasher@VirginiaShipRepair.org, (757) 233-7034 x 103


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