DoD Launches First Project MFG Maritime-Focused Welding Competition

SEPT. 23, 2021 | News

On Wednesday, September 15, the U.S. Navy’s Shipbuilding Industrial Base Task Force, in coordination with the Columbia Class Submarine Program and the Defense Department’s Office of Industrial Policy, hosted a major program milestone as part of the ongoing “Pennsylvania Pipeline Project: Philadelphia Region Workforce Pilot”. Key stakeholders from across the defense and academic communities gathered at Penn State University on the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. This Department of Defense (DoD)-led event brought together a diverse contingent of leaders from Pennsylvania state and local government offices, defense supply chain partners of all sizes, as well as academic institutions across the Philadelphia region. A key objective of the event was to partner the region’s small- and medium-sized defense suppliers with career and technical education (CTE) programs, and to codify these relationships in a way that provides sustained workforce pipelines capable of meeting the significant volume of Navy and maritime work being executed across the Commonwealth.

Ms. Adele Ratcliff, Director of the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program, which is providing the federal funding for the project, was among the keynote speakers. The event also included Mr. Matt Sermon, Executive Director, Columbia-class submarine program; U.S. Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon representing Pennsylvania’s 5th District; Philadelphia City School Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite; and Philadelphia Councilwoman Katherine Gilmore Richardson. Each speaker shared their perspective on the importance of creating strong synergies between the area’s CTE skilled trades programs and defense industrial base employers, ultimately strengthening the maritime workforce, improving domestic capability and capacity, providing economic benefits to the Philadelphia region, and directly supporting U.S. economic and national security objectives.

“This project represents a huge economic opportunity for our country and especially for my district,” said Congresswoman Scanlon. “More importantly, this project takes action to rebuild and to strengthen the ties between good jobs and careers and our schools, colleges, trade schools, so that people who live here—in the Philadelphia area—are first in line to get the jobs we’re bringing to this area—jobs that can support a family and allow the families and our communities to build a better future.”

“We live in a time where our defense workforce and skilled manufacturing trades are at the top of the list of key enablers that differentiate this Nation from its competitors,” said Mr. Sermon. “Having the numbers and skillsets required to meet the Navy’s demand is a no fail mission, and it has to be that way from here on out. With Columbia delivering strategic deterrence platforms for the next twenty years, we have to reimagine traditional approaches to workforce, bridge disconnects between school-based education and domestic defense skillsets, and reinvigorate the opportunities and importance that are core attributes of the nuclear shipbuilding industrial base mission.”

The Philadelphia Region Workforce Pilot project, led by Training Modernization Group (TMG), Inc., aims to energize and engage the greater Philadelphia region by creating and sustaining a defense-focused workforce pipeline designed to meet the defense maritime system production and sustainment requirements for highly specialized trade skills, now and in the future. This is one of 12 currently funded projects launched under the DoD IBAS program’s “National Imperative for Industrial Skills” initiative (or “the Skills Imperative”), which has invested over $80 million in the last two fiscal years.

Another Skills Imperative project called “Project MFG,” which runs industrial skills competitions around the nation, plans to hold a welding competition at Philadelphia Shipyard on November 9, 2021, where up to 32 young men and women from regional CTE welding programs will be invited to compete and showcase their welding skills against a Navy design challenge. Planning is underway to combine this with a recruiting event that will further highlight the Philadelphia Region Workforce Pilot project. This event also coincides with a November 10 National Defense Industrial Association Submarine Symposium that will convene key stakeholders around topics like the current threat environment, defense workforce, defense policy and procurement strategies, and supply chain demand signal.

“As the DoD program sponsor for Project MFG, I look forward to seeing high school and community college CTE students demonstrate their prowess for critical manufacturing skills such as welding,” said Ms. Ratcliff. “I also encourage industry and community stakeholders in the Philadelphia region to show their support not only through recruiting and engagement, but promoting the prestige of these skills through sponsorship, scholarships, and continued opportunities around defense manufacturing experience and exposure.”

For additional information on this, and other IBAS projects, please email the IBAS team at

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