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Center will prepare students for well-paying jobs in maritime industry
Picture a bustling, state-of-the-art skills center on the shores of the Foss Waterway, integrated with the Port of Tacoma - a place where high school students from across Pierce County learn from maritime industry experts in classroom labs, on the shoreline and on the water. Students will earn industry-recognized credentials and leave with skills and training to successfully pursue a career in the maritime industry.
That’s the vision for the new Maritime | 253 Skills Center – a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) and the Port of Tacoma (Port).
Over the past year and a half, TPS, the Port and industry partners have worked to bring the vision of the Maritime Skills Center to life. And thanks to recent approval from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the skills center will begin to serve students in the 2024-2025 school year.
“Students are the future, and we have an obligation to help prepare them for life after graduation. But we can’t do it alone, that’s why this partnership opportunity with the Port of Tacoma is not only exciting, it is essential,” said Elizabeth Bonbright, TPS Board President.
Open to students throughout the region
A skills center is not a high school - it is a regional career and technical education (CTE) center that serves high school students from multiple districts, at no costs to students. Students take advanced preparation CTE courses at the skills center in addition to courses at their high school required for graduation. Through a skills center, students can be set up for direct career engagement and employment, apprenticeship, internship, a two-year college track, and four-year university tracks.
Thousands of local jobs related to Port
The Port is a vital economic engine for the region and state. A 2019 study showed that more than 42,000 jobs and nearly $3 billion in labor income in Pierce County depend on Port-related activities.
From boat and ship construction to logistics, engineering, technology, environmental sciences and more, maritime is a big and complex global industry.
Understanding the range of careers, future workforce needs and educational pathways in the maritime industry was key to developing a plan for Maritime | 253. TPS began with a feasibility study in which 10 Pierce County school districts and 32 businesses and organizations participated. The feasibility study included a regional market analysis looking at enrollment projections, demographic trends, workforce, and hiring projections for the maritime industry.
Maritime | 253 to offer 4 focus areas
The feasibility study identified in-demand and soon-to-be-high-demand careers. Based on the findings, the four focus areas of Maritime|253 are:
Skilled & Technical Trades: Carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, masonry, and welding.
Transportation & Logistics: Emphasis on the process of inventorying, distributing, storing, transporting, and managing goods in a global economy across land, sea, and air.
Technology & Innovation: Cyber security, logistics programming, remote operated vehicles (ROV), and drones (aerial and underwater).
Sustainability: Renewable/alternative fuels, waste and emission reduction, material procurement, and retrofitting throughout multiple ecosystems.
Summer maritime programming sets the stage for skills center offerings
While Maritime|253 will be a new skills center, TPS has offered maritime-related programming for more than a decade.
Through the CTE Jobs 253 program, TPS offers eight programs related to the maritime industry in which students can earn certifications or industry-recognized credentials, along with credit toward high school graduation.
“We’ve seen powerful possibilities delivered to our students through our innovative programs,” said TPS Director of Innovative Learning and CTE Adam Kulaas. “I am beyond excited to see how Maritime | 253 will expand access and help us reach more students. Maritime career pathways are multi-faceted with crossover applications in technology and innovation that celebrate our region’s rich history.”
Building development underway
In March 2023, TPS and the Port started a planning process for co-locating Maritime | 253 with a new Port Maritime Center on a parcel of Port-owned property. In August BNBuilders/TCF Architecture was selected as the design-build team for the project.
“We are excited about our partnership with Tacoma Public Schools on this project,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Deanna Keller. “Locating Maritime | 253 at the new Port Maritime Center will allow for many wonderful opportunities to collaborate on educating and inspiring the skilled workforce of the future. Preparing future generations to fill jobs in the port, maritime, and skilled trades industries helps fulfill a critical need and is a key priority in the Port’s strategic plan.”
The Port is conducting a cultural resource and environmental assessment of the proposed site, which is located in the heart of an original spuyaləpabš village site. The Port recognizes the historical and cultural significance of the project area and is committed to continued consultation and coordination with the Puyallup Tribe. Extensive cultural resource testing and environmental protection efforts will continue to move forward in order to protect Tribal history.
After the site selection is finalized, the Port and TPS each plan to conduct community outreach throughout the development and design process.
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