ANCHORAGE, AK—The University of Alaska’s community and technical colleges and campuses celebrated National Maritime Day on May 22, a tradition dating back to 1933 that recognizes one of Alaska and the United States’ most important industries. This year, National Maritime Day coincided with UA’s efforts to obtain a Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence designation, a distinction that would expand its capacity to train domestic maritime workers.
President Donald Trump signed legislation authorizing designation of community and technical college Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence in December 2017. If chosen as a designee, UA could access federal funds towards admitting more students, training faculty and expanding maritime training facilities. This would provide a significant benefit to the university’s ability to increase student success and provide a skilled workforce for Alaska’s maritime industry, which supports more than 70,000 jobs and is the state’s largest private sector employer.
“I’m encouraged by the university’s prospects to receive this important designation,” said Fred Villa, associate vice president of workforce programs. “It’s a great opportunity for the university that would allow us to expand our already successful maritime training opportunities throughout the state.”
UA is well qualified to receive the designation, given its history of providing maritime training and the state of Alaska’s prominent maritime industry. UA has collaborated with maritime industry representatives, state agencies, and entities across the state since 2012 on the Fishing, Seafood and Maritime Initiative (FSMI) to assess, develop and deliver training programs, raise awareness and increase research to prepare Alaskans to meet current and emerging workforce, economic and scientific needs. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of maritime-related training classes in Alaska increased sharply with class completion rates growing by 171 percent.
Villa and a University of Alaska delegation will attend the Shared Quarters National Maritime Workforce Conference June 5-6 in Texas, where they hope to learn more about potentially receiving the designation and about opportunities to enhance and expand maritime, marine technology and port management workforce training.