PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Wind energy is slated to become Hampton Roads’ biggest new industry. By 2026, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Farm is expected to be the largest offshore wind farm in the United States. The hub of the industry will be at Portsmouth Marine Terminal.

The new industry needs a workforce. And the time to focus on attracting that workforce is now, according to leaders.

“What we’re doing now is we’re making sure we’re developing the pipeline. We’re still a couple of years off before we’re full swinging and putting those turbines off the coast but we want to be prepared for that,” said Shawn Avery, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.

On Wednesday, local Career and Technical Education (CTE) students from Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth school divisions toured the Marine Terminal. Following the tour, students went to the Portsmouth Tidewater Community College campus for lunch while they listened to speeches from industry leaders.

“This is a game-changer in the region,” explained Avery. “We’re basically creating a whole new industry here. It’s not just those turbines that are going off the coast but we’re going to have the manufacturing of those turbines. The supply chains that go into that. So there’s going to be a lot of great opportunities.”

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council, the Virginia Port Authority, Dominion Energy, and WINDSdays, a campaign to raise awareness of the offshore wind industry, put on the event.

The most in-demand job in the next few years will be welders. We spoke with Braden Batista, a welder-in-training at Churchland High School.

“It’s a trade that you can you know apply out there in the field. With welding you can do so many different things with travel, you can go places. It’s a trade that you can use in today’s industry really well,” Batista said.