UA’s Fisheries Seafood Maritime initiative focuses on industry needs
Fisheries, seafood and maritime sectors provide more than 68,000 jobs in Alaska according to a recent study by the McDowell Group. The study was commissioned as part of the University of Alaska's Fisheries Seafood Maritime Initiative (FSMI) to understand and address workforce development needs for these fields, and work to make that training available at campuses throughout the system. "The university is focused on developing a partnership with industry and employers. Our goal is to coordinate our efforts across the state to provide the education, training and research resources to meet their current and on-going demands to support their priority needs for a qualified workforce and responsibly manage the resource," said Fred Villa, Associate Vice President of Workforce Programs for the University of Alaska. "As a university we will align with the priorities established by the industry and employers in these sectors." The FSMI initiative focuses on enhancing the economy of communities impacted by maritime, seafood or fishing sectors by developing a workforce to keep those industries vibrant. Outreach to Alaskan youth will introduce them to the wide range of employment opportunities in these industries. Research focused on sustaining coastal and fresh water resources will benefit the communities and industries dependent upon them. “We have strong marine and freshwater resources in Alaska and thousands of jobs that depend on them. Our first goal is to protect our resources through important research. At the same time, we need to support this workforce that is so critical to our economy,” said University of Alaska President Patrick Gamble. A committee of 18 University of Alaska program heads and faculty have been commissioned to coordinate programs directed toward fishing, seafood or maritime employment and increasing the visibility of this promising career path. They met with industry representatives in early March to discuss the industry's workforce needs and use that input to guide educational program offerings. While training is available in many related areas—from welding and fabrication to refrigeration and fisheries science—the classes are not coordinated into a specific career pathway. Additional programs and training targeting this workforce will be developed as needed. “While there are many programs in the university system that could be useful to fisheries, seafood and maritime jobs, very few are specifically directed toward this workforce,” said Paula Cullenberg, leader of the university’s Marine Advisory Program and chair of the UA committee. “We do very well training students to be fishery managers and ocean and marine researchers, but have little training directed toward the technical aspects of these industries or the business of seafood and maritime operations.” The McDowell group was contracted to evaluate the training gap between the offerings at the university and the training needs of the industry. Interviews were conducted with representatives of the workforce sector and training providers. Their report identifies more than 80 different occupations related to fisheries, seafood and maritime industries. It also identifies the concerns and focuses of industry leaders. The new McDowell report is one of many resources on the FSMI website helping to track industry needs and university responses. The site allows for two-way communication—gathering feedback and information from the industry and providing updates from the university on the progress of the initiative. The site is www.alaska.edu/fsmi. The governor and legislature have participated in meetings related to the initiative. They passed House Concurrent Resolution 18, which resolves to “encourage the continuing work of the University of Alaska fisheries, seafood and maritime initiative.” The resolution appoints one member of the House and Senate to act as liaisons to the University of Alaska and report progress back to the full Legislature next year.