The ship repair industry is regarded as a male-dominated profession, but a new grant from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to change that in Hampton Roads. The DOL awarded on Wednesday a $500,000 grant to increase opportunities for women in Hampton Roads’ ship repair industry. 

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council, which received the grant, will use it to recruit, train, and retain more women in “quality pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs,” so that more women in the region can pursue careers in ship repair.

The program will focus specifically on women who need the most help, particularly those who have survived domestic abuse, experienced homelessness or poverty, or found themselves under-employed.

Christina Brooks, senior director of youth services at the workforce council, told the Daily Press that the goal is to fill important jobs in the ship repair industry and provide women with skills that could change their lives. “Women make excellent ship repair workers,” Brooks said. “They’re a great fit.”

The program will create opportunities for 40 women, pay them a “living sustainable wage,” and help cover transportation and child care costs for women who qualify. 

The Virginia Ship Repair Association, which worked on the grant application, will also play a significant role going forward, according to the Daily Press. Other partners include Tidewater Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College and the United Way.