Old Dominion University opens school dedicated to supply chain and maritime industry

Ryan Murphy/WHRO

Freight and material haulage activity around the world is huge with a massive presence in Hampton Roads.

After years of discussions with industry leaders, Old Dominion University has opened a new school to train people for the maritime industry.

Elspeth McMahon, a longtime maritime educator and U.S. Navy reserve officer, will lead the school’s maritime initiatives. WHRO sat down with McMahon to talk about the number of different types of jobs that are part of the shipping industry.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Ryan Murphy: The ODU School of Supply Chain Logistics and Maritime Operations – there are a lot of words and ideas in there. Clearly, what is the idea behind the school?

Elspeth McMahon: This new school covers a lot. We are basically opening this school because we are listening to the industry.

So if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it shows that the demand for trained logistics workers is expected to increase by 30% over the next decade. So from 2020 to 2030, 30% increase in demand for workers. We do this in response to this request.

For example, the Port of Virginia increased their container intake by 15% from FY21. So in FY22 they increased their TEU – their container capacity – to, I think, 3.7 million. So just massive, massive numbers. Thus, the port expands. If you look around us, look at all the companies involved in shipping. Everyone is getting bigger. Many businesses relocate to Norfolk and the greater region because of all its resources and the availability of ports and shipyards.

And we are looking to fill these types of logistics jobs: Transportation Coordinators, Port and Terminal Supervisors, Project Managers, Transportation Analysts, Sales, Logistics, Warehouse Specialists, Vessel Superintendents, Shipping Agents, terminal, purchasing managers.

For the marine side, we’re looking at how we can add research to address the kinds of issues the industry is facing with the supply chain.

If I’m a high school student or have been in college for a year or two, beyond the logistics jobs you mentioned, what other types of jobs are we talking about?

[There’s] coastal engineering, marine engineering, marine science and technology, even things like naval architecture, oceanography, coastal resilience. And if you’re thinking outside of the maritime world somehow – if you’re interested in a career in information technology – even geography, history, management, data science, cybersecurity. All of these areas can lead to a career in the marine industry.

So one of the reasons I’m here to work at ODU is to kind of get ODU on the map, on the marine radar, to kind of bridge that gap between education and industry.

If you don’t want to take the full academic route and are interested in the skilled trades, there are plenty of jobs in robotics, welding, IT, cybersecurity, and automation. ODU can certainly provide the training and needs to meet your interests.

Since the start of the pandemic, people have become much more aware of the supply chain and its importance in daily life. How do you feel about training people for this industry as we move forward, if things keep changing?

The industry is really looking to the future, and that’s why I’m here, because I’m not just focusing on what the industry is today, but where it’s going.

So what are we looking at at ODU in the maritime industry? We are considering stand-alone systems. We envision digital transformation. Offshore wind power, project management technicians. They need marine scientists, data analysts. The school also announced a cybersecurity school.

So. one of my big roles here at school is to connect industry education with innovation. We want to connect with all these major players in the maritime industry, you know, the DOD, the shipyards. So we can essentially formulate the right kind of training, recruit the right students, and meet industry needs because the maritime industry is growing.

We are entering a kind of golden age of shipping. And it’s not just about working on ships, it’s not just about working in shipyards. It covers everything – cyber, IT, automation. And that’s one of the reasons ODU is so focused on growing the maritime domain, because water touches everything we see.

Read the original story on the WHRO website.