Gazebo Gazette

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise recently received a $980,398 grant from AccelerateMS that will be used to support open enrollment for four free workforce training seminars.

The seminars allow active and transitioning military, members of the traditional blue economy workforce, and students opportunities for cross-training and re-training to help advance their careers in the blue technology economy.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, trained personnel familiar with uncrewed maritime systems, cyber security issues in their use (and their data), as well as general knowledge of the autonomous capabilities of these systems, has not kept pace with offshore mapping, and energy development needs.

Wicker Center professionals engaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast Industry base to determine which aspects of Uncrewed Maritime Systems workforce training would help alleviate the shortages caused by COVID-19. Industry professionals suggested that offering more frequent operational seminars developed to provide hands-on training (mostly in the water) with the most commonly used Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASVs), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), and Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) would be extremely beneficial.

“We are excited to be offering open enrollment workforce training in the areas of maritime cyber, autonomy, data and uncrewed operations to assist industry in getting our workforce upskilled in these areas after a prolonged disruption from COVID-19,” said Jason McKenna, Director of Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation and Training at the Wicker Center. “We deeply appreciate AccelerateMS giving us the opportunity to help their mission in these areas.”

Four bi-monthly training programs are planned at the Marine Research Center located in Gulfport, Miss. These include:

  • Maritime Autonomy
  • Maritime Data Analytics
  • Maritime Uncrewed Systems
  • Maritime Cyber

These two-day seminars begin with a flexible eight hours of online coursework. Day 2 is designed to help participants expand on what they learned on Day 1 by exciting hands-on training with actual autonomous vessels, simulators, and water-based activities.

USM has been a leader in Uncrewed Systems Certification for several years. Tier 1 and Tier 2 Certification Classes offered by the School of Ocean Science and Engineering have been a fantastic success for NOAA, USACE, and NAVOCEANO employees. The proposed training programs build on the tradition of success for these 5-week classes as well as Ocean Enterprise’s Stennis-based Operational Seminars.

By being very surgical, and designed for enrollment multiple times with adaptable content, USM expects to reach hundreds and hundreds of potential learners (including shipbuilders, high school/community college graduates, and transitioning veterans looking to enter the Uncrewed Systems employment area disrupted by COVID-19).

The Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise is a global hub for advancing Uncrewed Maritime Systems (UMS), ocean data science, maritime cyber research, and blue tech workforce training.

The Center consists of multiple facilities bringing together federal, industry, and academic partners, creating a collaborative environment to accelerate the development and launch of new technology in the fast-growing ocean economy.