Port of Seattle Effort to Address Urgent Need for Skilled Workers as Current Workers Retire

Port of Seattle opens 150 paid high school and college summer internship slots, expands comprehensive effort to address urgent need for skilled workers as current workers retire.

The Port of Seattle announced their kick off of its 2017 summer intern program with 150 paid roles for high school and college students. The internship program, which tripled the number of positions offered from two years ago, is one element of the Port’s community-based effort to close the labor gap as the Boomer Generation leaves the workforce.

“We need to tackle three fundamental challenges in our economy right now: a coming labor shortfall in skilled trades and Port-related industries, fewer industries creating good paying jobs that support the middle class, and a lack of opportunities in disadvantaged communities,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. “Port-related industries offer those good paying jobs. We designed our internship program and partnerships to do more to inspire students to explore these industries, learn about skills training and get connected to opportunities.”

In addition to the open roles at the Port, area businesses in the maritime and manufacturing sectors are participating in an expanded pilot program to host and train their own interns. In 2016, companies like Vigor and Status Ceramics partnered with the Port to create additional opportunities for students.

This year, even more companies are encouraged to take part. Participation in the program means the placement of a Port-recruited intern and support in the form of training for intern supervisors, access to youth counselors, and off-site education and enrichment opportunities.

“Some of our students are looking to join the workforce immediately after graduating, and they need to make a living in this rapidly growing region,” said Chris Names of the Aerospace Science and Technology Skill Center program of the Seattle Public Schools. “These jobs can provide the solid skills and industry connections for kids that want to start a career here.”

The Port of Seattle, private employers, and other public sector agencies are applying lessons from the aviation and technology industries that drove students to careers in STEM. Sarah Scherer is managing the recruitment program for the Youth Maritime Collaborative, an organization of maritime industry companies, educational institutions, non-profits, community service providers, and public agencies established to help address the maritime industry’s urgent need for skilled workers.

“The Seattle Maritime Academy welcomes this partnership with the Port of Seattle. Classes at the academy can put students in trades paying around $70,000 a year, well above the state average,” Scherer said. “Our region was built on the skill and vision of an entire generation of workers and we must carry that work forward to keep our region inclusive and competitive.”

“Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Skills Center are excited for this opportunity to collaborate with the Port of Seattle and our other partners in the Youth Maritime Collaborative to help prepare our students for careers in the maritime industry,” said Dan Golosman, Principal of the Seattle Skills Center. “With thousands of job openings predicted in the next five years in maritime manufacturing and transportation and logistics, we need to provide opportunities for training that will prepare our students for these careers. Whether our students go straight into a job right after high school, continue into post-secondary education, or complete post-graduate work, the Career and Technical Education training we can provide through partnerships like the Youth Maritime Collaborative will help prepare students for the careers of the 21st Century.”

On March 30, the Youth Maritime Collaborative hosted an interactive event where those interested in maritime careers could meet potential employers and explore a variety of opportunities in the field. The event allowed participants to learn about and experience:

  • marine safety
  • cold water survival techniques without getting wet
  • some seamanship skills like knot tying and line handling
  • the science of oil spills
  • oceanography
  • hydrography and nautical charting
  • commerical diving
  • a research submarine
  • USCG damage control simulator
  • bridge and engine room simulations
  • boat tours

The Port supports year-round workforce and career development programs with youth and adults. In addition to youth career exploration events, the Port supports programs with local private employers and unions to improve career pathways for airport workers looking to take on more challenging and higher wage work, and is working to increase adult referrals to pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and union trades job opportunities through a trades partnership with local governments and nonprofits.

 Photo credit: Port of Seattle