PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) — A local company is investing in its own future by helping to train the workforce of tomorrow.

The Eastern Shipbuilding group donated supplies this week to the Port St. Joe High School welding program.

Deona Vickers, a 10th grader at Port St. Joe High School, is the only girl in the welding program and she’s developed a passion for the craft.

“Being the only girl they were kind of like ya know they were skeptical at first and they put me in the shop and they were like ok this girl can weld and after that it just kind of progressed but I want to a be a tick welder,” Vickers said.

And she may not have to travel far to find a job.

Eastern Shipbuilding opened a facility in Port St. Joe in July and is always looking for welders.

Last week the company donated $5,000 worth of materials to the Port St. Joe High School welding program.
Eastern even repaired some of the school’s welding equipment.

“And now things that we were not able to use for instructional purposes we have available to us and we know that’s going to lead to our students being better prepared and more employable when they leave here,” Port St. Joe High School Principal Sissy Godwin.

The school’s welding program has limited resources.

Instructors said Eastern’s donation will make a huge difference for the students.

“They said we want to be part of the local, well, how do you be part of the local? You be part of the schools and you let the schools be part of you and with eastern shipbuilding on a gentleman’s agreement, they said we want to step up you have a great little welding program in Port St. Joe and Wewa and we want to support you,” Norton said.

The welding program graduates around five certified welders each year that are industry-ready and they’re hoping this partnership will increase that number.

“To us, it preserves a traditional sense of community and that’s what these opportunities do,” Norton said.