Charting a course for tomorrow’s maritime leaders … 

“The sea is selective,” as the famed maritime officer Felix Riesenberg once noted, “slow at recognition, but fast at sinking the unfit.” This wise observation holds true in today’s maritime industry. The industry’s challenging work environment demands highly trained professionals with sharp decision-making and leadership skills. Skilled workers trained in the marine trades are in high demand in the greater New York City region — where many ports, ferries, tug and tow operators, container facilities and shipyards make their home. Success starts with “select” individuals obtaining extensive hands-on instruction, and specific credentials and endorsements. The need for qualified professionals has never been greater — and quality training has never been more important. 

Students gather on deck of the training ship

Students gather on deck of the training ship

The process of acquiring the necessary experience, training and documentation can be a time-consuming, expensive, and somewhat overwhelming commitment for young professionals as they begin their careers. Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program was created in order to set a course for qualified candidates, and assist them in obtaining the vocational and  training opportunities that will launch a rewarding maritime career. 

Our ultimate objective is to provide the maritime industry with select individuals ready to succeed. We will extend every effort and accommodation to ensure that our candidates are fit for the job — worthy of recognition and unsinkable.

Since 2008, the New York City-based charity Virginia’s House of Hope has supported the training of high-achieving individuals through a scholarship program for studies in maritime-related disciplines. As an extension of this mission, we have established Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program, a unique training opportunity for young professionals to gain entrance into the maritime industry through a cooperative work-study curriculum. By offering on the job as well as classroom professional learning, we will provide instruction and access for applicants from disadvantaged families and/or under-served communities who wish to pursue a rewarding career in the maritime industry.  With this initiative, we intend to become a vital resource for companies that employ highly-trained mariners in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program is one of the activities sponsored by Virginia’s House of Hope, a 501(c)(3) charitable not-for-profit organization that provides services and support to children, families and others in need and otherwise disadvantaged.

  • Our Goals: Our program seeks to “chart a course for tomorrow’s maritime leaders.” We hope to advance the opportunities for persons with limited resources who wish to pursue careers in the maritime industry, while providing employers with well-trained workers with potential to succeed. To accomplish these objectives, we have developed an approach to educating students beyond the standard training requirements, and offering a comprehensive learning experience.  

  • Our Process: We will assist each participant in securing a paying maritime-related job. In addition to working in such maritime-related job, each participant will attend mandatory classes each year. The program begins with two weeks of coursework. After the initial coursework and the participant has been working for about one year, the participant will receive three more courses, each being approximately 3-5 days per course. Along with training and study, each participant will receive guidance and ongoing support throughout their enrollment. By providing an enhanced level of support, we will maximize the program’s retention and completion rate, as well as ensure future success after their instruction is completed. Upon graduation, those who complete the course of study in its entirety will receive a special diploma with commendation. This program requires a dedicated commitment from each participant. Their dedication will be rewarded with free-tuition and job placement.

  • Our Expectations:  Our program will offer candidates a chance of a lifetime to receive a first-rate education that will lead to limitless opportunities. However, when much is given, much is expected… and this situation is no different. The Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program represents a serious commitment from our participants — one that will ensure their success when each goes forward in his or her career. Because the maritime industry is a demanding environment, Virginia’s House of Hope has high-expectations for all of our candidates. What makes this program unique is that it is more than just taking a succession of courses. We intend to fully prepare each participant in the disciplines of professional life, as well as challenges that they will encounter as a mariner.  To accomplish this goal, we will keep participant to a regimented schedule, and hold them accountable for their obligations inside and outside of the classroom.

Candidates will be recommended through the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut regional Job Corps Centers. These centers, as part of the U.S. Department of Labor, have a commitment to providing free training opportunities for young adults interested in enhancing their careers. 

Future seamen are shown the ropes

Future seamen are shown the ropes

The Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program will require that participants be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, and be in sound physical condition. Once selected, a participant must adhere to a challenging and comprehensive schedule that includes a blended regiment of course work and entry-level employment at a maritime-related company. In addition to these responsibilities, participants will participate in an enduring career management program that involves performance evaluation, career guidance and personal coaching over the life of the Program. 

A “rolling-admissions” model will determine the start date for participants. The three-year program will begin with a course-work focused year that will orient participants, and prepare them with the foundation knowledge required for their upcoming work-study. The second and third years of the program involve high-level courses with a lesser focus on hands-on instruction and more hours devoted to field work. Each cohort will progress through the program as a group, starting and finishing together as a class. 

Each participant will designate a career track that will correspond with his or her  goals, interests and abilities. Potential employers will select candidates that best suit their operational needs and professional requirements. The strength of this program will lie in the relationships developed between participants and their employers, and enhance the probability for success in the future.

We are proud to partner in this initiative with SUNY Maritime College to administer this program and provide the highest standards of instruction. VHH Maritime Co-op Program shares common interests with our strategic partner, specifically the provision of training opportunities for the marine trades and maritime industry at large. 

As the oldest and largest state maritime academy in the United States, Maritime College is well known as “First and Foremost” in international maritime education, training and research. The Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program represents one of many industry outreach programs it engages in as it follows its mission as an institution. With the help of our collaborative partner, we will encourage all participants to work to their highest potential, by providing support through innovative efforts, and build a community of learning and success.

This educational and training initiative works as a partnership with the maritime industry, with common interests and shared outcomes. In fact, key components to the success of this program are the relationships and engagement that the Program develops with marine-focused enterprises.   The strength of the program, in many ways, will result in the investment that companies make in the initiative — whether that be participation through partnership or through funding support.

Principally, supporting the Program is supporting the highest level of training for the most qualified candidates for the maritime industry. Additionally, our model offers companies an enduring solution for recruitment, staffing and  training for their operational needs. Supporting this initiative gives back, while also securing interests going forward.

Candidates will enroll in a three-year schedule that combines license bearing course work with on-the-job training. 

  • Support Models:There are two ways that an organization can support the Virginia’s House of Hope Tugboat Program, either as a Candidate Sponsorship Partner or as a Corporate Supporter. 

  • Candidate Sponsorship Partners: These partners directly employ candidates and actively participate in their education and training throughout the life of the program. Sponsorship Partners will pledge support by provide employment for the life of the program. Ideally, candidates will remain employed with their Sponsors after they have completed the program, but this is an arrangement that would be made between the candidates and the sponsors.

  • Corporate Supporters: Organizations that would not employ mariners, but have a vested interest in ensuring the industry’s future success are encouraged to support the general training fund for the program.

  • Program Cost: Costs for the administration of the program are considerable. There is no tuition, as the program is fully funded through industry support, grants and donations. 

To apply for the Tugboat Program, please complete the form below:

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Please submit the below supporting documents to

  1. Letter of Recommendation

  2. Cover Letter of Applicant

  3. Resume of Applicant