Gov. Jay Inslee got a first-hand look at Washington’s robust maritime industry and workforce training efforts during a trip to the Olympic Peninsula on Thursday. Those efforts include strategic investments, as well as partnerships with local governments and businesses, to grow living wage jobs and opportunities in rural communities.
The state’s maritime industry supports more than 146,000 jobs in Washington, and continues to grow every year. But the average age of a maritime worker is 54 years old, so recruiting and training the next generation of maritime workers is a crucial aspect of the state’s Maritime BLUE strategic plan, currently under development.
“Maritime activity has long been a pillar of our state’s economy, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the country in maritime innovation,” Inslee said. “We can model new management practices and clean technologies while creating living-wage jobs for Washingtonians.”
During his visit to Clallam and Jefferson counties, Inslee saw new programs that train workers in high-demand skills — from marine aluminum welding to boat mechanics. He learned about the newly formed Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone. And he toured Puget Sound’s Environmental Tall Ship, which provides thousands of youth and adults each year with ocean literacy and environmental education, as well as workforce training.
All of the programs and businesses Inslee visited have benefited from state support. Here’s a closer look at each of the governor’s stops and their recent state investments:
Armstrong Marine and Peninsula College
When aluminum boat manufacturer Armstrong Marine in Port Angeles won a contract to build state-of-the-art barges for the U.S. Navy, it could have looked out of state for the 90 certified welders it needed. Instead, thanks to a $123,000 state Strategic Reserve Fund award, Peninsula College and Impact Washington developed a training program to meet that need.
Current workers and other community members are trained at both the company’s new training facility and through Peninsula College’s new program. In addition, high school graduates can take advantage of summer internships at Armstrong Marine, which also include training opportunities.
This work ties into the governor’s Career Connected Learning initiative, which aims to connect youth to numerous career paths, including the many good-paying maritime jobs found in rural parts of Washington.
Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone
In an impressive show of regional collaboration, five tribes, three cities, a port and an economic development group on the Olympic Peninsula came together to create the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone, which Inslee officially designated in May. The effort is part of a new federal program that gives investors tax breaks if they invest in qualified private businesses in designated Opportunity Zones.
“The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone represents a powerful public-private collaboration forged to bring new investment to the Olympic Peninsula,” said Joshua Berger, Inslee’s Director of Economic Development for the Maritime Industry. “The Governor’s visit today is especially important in that his Washington Maritime BLUE initiative is a first of its kind effort to promote innovation and sustainability in the state’s maritime industry. One of the priorities in this initiative is to continue to support and accelerate programs that build the maritime workforce in rural and underserved communities.”
The Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone partnership includes the Jamestown S’Klallam, Quileute Nation, Hoh, Makah and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes; the Clallam County Economic Development Corporation; the cities of Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks; and, the Port of Port Angeles.
“We came together because we know that economic development and growth, like a rising tide, can help lift all canoes and provide opportunity for those who need it most,” said W. Ron Allen, tribal chair and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding
Thanks to $100,000 from a state Strategic Reserve Fund/Work Start award, the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding developed a marine systems training program to meet the needs of boatbuilding companies in Jefferson County.
Before this program, local companies had to send workers out of the region to receive training and national certification.
The school now offers a six-month program for people training to become marine technicians, and one week intensives courses for people already working in the trades to learn about marine corrosion, electrical, hydraulics or diesel engines. The new programs are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
The Adventuress schooner, which Inslee proclaimed the “Puget Sound’s Environmental Tall Ship” in 2016, has received two highly competitive State Heritage Capital Projects grants — one in 2013 and the other in 2017 — to help restore its wooden hull.
The restoration projects have employed dozens of traditional shipwrights and contemporary marine system engineers for several seasons in Jefferson County. Each year, the schooner serves as a training facility for thousands of youth and adults.