This fall keys will open the doors to the Seattle area’s first-ever Maritime High School. Then the inaugural class of ninth graders, who want to learn more about and potentially work in the local maritime industry, will cross the threshold.

In the Puget Sound region, businesses in the maritime industry are forward-thinking and innovative, says Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins. Their leaders know that maritime will become a principal partner in the fight against the effects of climate change. Whether these leaders are called upon to provide efficiencies in transportation, sustainable food sources or renewable ocean energies remains to be seen, he says.

The Port of Seattle and its commissioners provided support in the beginning phases of community engagement, design and leadership development for the school.

“As a commissioner, I became aware of two concerns facing the maritime industry that MHS could help solve. The first was the impending ‘silver tsunami’; as a wave of boomers retire, there will remain an acute workforce gap in maritime,” Calkins says. “The second issue was the lack of diversity. While certain sectors are quite diverse, other sectors are decidedly not. As a solution, we wanted to prepare the next generation of women and students of color for jobs in maritime.”


Economic benefits

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the maritime industry contributes 2.3 million high-paying jobs nationwide. Jobs involve either water or boats, and include captaining a ferry, manufacturing boats, installing the electrical components, marine engineering and more. The average salary clocks in around $70,000 for entry-level positions in Washington state, says Tremain Holloway, the founding principal of MHS.

Internships will be part of the program for the 11th and 12th grades, Holloway says. These internships may come from the Port of Seattle, the Northwest Maritime Center or other marine-centered businesses.

“We’re hoping to create a pipeline for future workers this way,” says Holloway.

Maritime students won’t be boxed into one specific arena of employment; instead they’ll experience a number of career avenues to see what resonates with them, Holloway says.


How the school will operate

As the program develops, students will earn college credit through partnerships and experiences to deepen learning in maritime, and prepare a rigorous college career.

Applications are still being accepted for a few vacant spots for the school’s inaugural year. Students must currently be in eighth grade and will be a ninth grader in the fall.

The school is located in Des Moines and administered by Highline Public Schools. During school hours, Holloway says, students will embark upon learning-based projects in the field twice a week and also have some direct instruction time. MHS is considered a one-to-one school, meaning every student will have their own laptop.

Diversifying starts in high school

Calkins explains the challenges faced in order to diversify the maritime workforce.

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“We need to broaden the pool of qualified applicants by engaging youth in workforce development, and we need to create workplaces that are welcoming and inclusive to all workers,” he says. “Both cases require employers’ support.”

Coordinated efforts to train workers in skilled trades and professional degrees, related to the maritime industry, virtually assures our regional maritime economy’s growth, Calkins says.

Holloway is already recruiting and hiring a diverse staff that reflects the community to ensure the school is inclusive and welcoming

“My moves all go through an equity lens,” he says. “The maritime industry in the Pacific Northwest isn’t as diverse as it could be. Our students can help change that.”

MHS’s tagline says “student-centered, equity-driven, maritime-focused,” which speaks volumes about what will happen there. The curriculum and projects will also contribute to the world’s environmental health.

No plan to address climate change would be successful without efforts on, in and around the ocean, says Calkins.

“Some of our most promising options for addressing the urgent need to phase out of fossil fuels rely on the maritime sector, such as offshore wind energy, carbon sequestration and algae-based biofuels,” he says.

Scientists, technicians, tradespeople and more are needed to pull off these projects. MHS is the training ground for those professions.

The Seattle Propeller Club is the largest and most diverse maritime business association in Seattle. For further information, visit www.SeattlePropellerClub.org.