Los Angeles officials, union leaders and other stakeholders celebrated the groundbreaking of a temporary training center where hundreds ILWU Local 13 employees will trained as they continue moving record cargo at the San Pedro Bay ports. Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

With the sound of container trucks nearby and seagulls flying overhead, Port of Los Angeles and county officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the first-of-its-kind Goods Movement Training Center Friday afternoon.

Located on a vacant parcel near APM Terminals on Pier 400, the largest container port terminal in the Western Hemisphere, the project will include the construction of a metal structure that will help in the training process, Mark Jurisic, labor relations representative for the ILWU Local 13, told the Business Journal.

“It’s going to be designed with working bays so we can actually bring in equipment that [dockworkers] currently work on the job,” Jurisic said. “And we can bring in new equipment so we can teach people wanting to learn … or upskill the current workforce.”

The facility is slated to be ready for training in March 2023, according to Pacific Maritime Association Vice President Chad Lindsay. The price tag for the facility is between $15 million and $17 million, Lindsay added, which will be covered by employers at the port—not public funds.

The land for the project was provided by the Port of LA.

The training center is expected to provide maintenance, repair, upskill and re-skill training for 900 registered longshore workers and mechanics working within the San Pedro Bay port complex, which includes the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“We know that a strong port starts with a strong workforce,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a press conference. “These things don’t move automatically. It’s human beings that show up every day to work these docks, to build this port, who have made this America’s port.”

The groundbreaking took three years of negotiations and effort between the PMA and three local unions—ILWU locals 13, 63 and 90—Local 13 President Ramon Ponce de Leon said during the press conference.

“We can work together and move the membership into other jobs,” Ponce de Leon said, noting shifts in the industry toward electric equipment. “Training is important to keep the community workforce in a job. The employers recognize that and are putting up the money for this.”

The training facility at Pier 400 will be temporary, Jurisic said. Plans for the future permanent training center are still in the works, but a site within the San Pedro Bay port complex has been identified for a 20-acre facility with room to expand, according to Jurisic.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero described the project is “exciting” during his annual State of the Port address earlier this week. Cordero said the facility meshes with the port’s workforce development and educational outreach efforts, which include a partnership with the Long Beach Unified School District, summer internships and scholarships.

“[The permanent facility] is going to encompass everything—not only upskill and re-skill, it’s going to encompass all the jobs we currently do,” Jurisic said, noting that it will also feature large cranes for training, which the temporary site cannot accommodate. “The idea is we’re going to re-skill our workforce to be more efficient, more productive, so we will be able to respond better to the economy.”

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his proposed state budget, which included $2.3 billion for the state’s ports. Of those funds, $110 million have been earmarked for the construction of the permanent training center.

During Friday’s press conference, Garcetti said he hopes the San Pedro Bay ports receive as much as $5 billion from Biden’s historic infrastructure bill. The figure would be almost one-third of the $17 billion allocated for the nation’s ports in that legislation.

“We hope to equal what the state is putting into this training center with federal funds,” Garcetti said, “to be ready here to show America what the future of our economy and our competitiveness looks like.”