Launching a Maritime Academy
In another example of schools and industry teaming up to produce job-ready graduates, the Hillsborough County school district is about to launch a magnet program for the maritime industry, which offers a multitude of jobs, including captains, welders, longshoremen, mechanics, engineers and attorneys. The program will teach participants the different facets of the industry, and graduates should be well-positioned to pursue further education or work in the field. This should be extremely valuable to the Tampa Port Authority, which has an annual economic impact of $8 billion and generates roughly 100,000 jobs in the region. Such an effort is badly needed.As maritime attorney Christopher Koehler explains, the maritime workforce is aging. For instance, the median age of shipbuilders is 43. "Our industry's greatest need is to get young people into it," he says. "Our industry is perceived as not being lifestyle friendly … too much heavy lifting and such." The Maritime Academy will show high school students there is far more to the industry than manual labor. Students will discover it can include such specialities as undersea mining and wind farming. The school and the Tampa Propeller Club, which represents maritime interests, worked together to develop the program, which was started with one class of ninth-grade students at Blake High School. Now the school district is about to launch the Jefferson High Magnet Maritime Academy, which will be a four-year program that can be attended by students throughout the county. Registration will start in April, and about 50 students are expected for the initial enrollment. Students will take other required courses, so participation will not eliminate options from other fields should they change their minds. But students should find plenty of opportunity in the maritime industry, which offers jobs for all education levels. The median pay in the water transportation industry is $46,610. The smart collaboration between the school district and the industry will help students make rewarding career choices and help maritime companies find the skilled workers they need. And it should also help meet a vital need of Tampa's port, an anchor of the local economy.