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Training vets, spouses to fill vital maritime industry jobs

Operation Next kicks off in Hampton Roads in an effort to give local military veterans and their spouses in-demand manufacturing skills.

NORFOLK, Va. — It's a true case of need, meeting opportunity.

An organization called Operation Next is stepping in, to give local military veterans and their spouses in-demand manufacturing skills.

That way, they can fill critically needed maritime industry jobs in Hampton Roads.

"And Newport News Shipbuilding is busier than we've been in the last four decades," said Susan Jacobs, Newport News Shipbuilding Vice President. "And to meet our Navy commitments, we need more shipbuilders."

With more than 25,000 employees, Newport News Shipbuilding is already Virginia's largest industrial employer.

The plan is to hire 6,000 more workers over the next five years. The challenge is, finding them.

That's where Operation Next will step in.

Collaborating with the Maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem, ODU, and others, Operation Next will recruit active-duty service members in the region and their spouses, to enroll in a program that will guide them through their educational experience to attain nationally portable and industry-recognized credentials--- at minimal or no cost to them.

At the campaign kickoff, various stakeholders expressed optimism the program will help the estimated 22% of military spouses who are unemployed find meaningful work, and, will go a long way towards retaining the 20,000 local military members who leave the service every year.

"We would like to keep all 20,000 because we know the talent that veterans bring to the workforce," said Kathleen Jabs, Virginia's Acting Secretary of Veteran and Military Affairs.

"Operation Next brings companies and talent together, preparing service members and their spouses for careers in advanced manufacturing," said Joe Steele, LIFT  Senior Director for Communications.

"Operation Next will be able to reach our separating service members and military spouses, ensuring them employment opportunities exist in our region," said Doug Smith, Hampton Roads Alliance President and CEO.

Added Newport News Shipbuilding's Susan Jacobs: "I think there is real opportunity for Operation Next and the shipyard help one another be successful."