Posted by Pete DeLaunay on Jan 18, 2024
Rotarians learned from the experts how the maritime industry is losing employees to retirement or greener pastures, and how  pathways are being developed to fill those maritime jobs, along with the electrification of Washington State Ferries.  Beth Stowell, Senior Manager of Marine Transportation Operations, and Matt von Ruden, System Electrification Program Administrator, with Washington State Ferries.  They described the challenges of employee recruitment, certification, the electrification of ferry vessels -- and the terminals needed to recharge them.  George Harris President/CEO - Northwest Marine Trade Association, said the recreational boating industry is supporting Core Plus Maritime ( , a Washington based high school curriculum in 26 high schools across the state, to help fill maritime employment needs.
With 1,800 employees systemwide, the Washington State Ferry system is the largest in the U.S. with 21 vessels carrying 8.5M vehicles through 20 terminals over 10 routes and  450 sailings every day!  “There is a worldwide shortage of qualified deck and engine room seafarers,” Beth Stowell of the ferry system said. “We are incentivizing employees to stay with the system, as well as recruiting outreach programs such as  how to be certified as an ‘Able Bodied Seafarer Mate’, Pilotage and scholarships.”
She described what it takes to become a licensed deck officer, pilot or how to become a chief mater in as little as three years. Employment will be a crucial piece as the ferry system addresses emerging changes.“The ferry system began a transition to zero emissions in 2018, with an ambitious $4B electrification plan, $1.4M of which has already been budgeted,” said Matt von Ruden who manages the electrification program.  The ferry system is recruiting to meet the needs of new systems, vessels, maintenance and terminals.  In the Central Puget Sound area electrification of five terminals (for recharging) eight new vessels and conversations of two jumbo ferries. 
The day’s short program, featured former Rotarian, George Harris who is the long time president of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, which is the largest association of its kind in the U.S. with 600 members.  He described how the state’s $8B boating industry employs more than 73,000  in Washington with that workforce shrinking every year. “Since 2021 Core Plus Maritime has developed hands-on project based learning in the maritime trades,” he said. “The Free industry developed curriculum is now in more than 20 high schools and 1,400 students enrolled.”   He was joined by Tory Gering, Core Plus Maritime Program Manager ( who described her program as “retooling shop class for the 21st Century”.
George concluded by promoting the Seattle Boat Show that sails into Lumen Field Event Center and Bell Harbor Marina, Feb 2-10 ( .   The Seattle Boat Show launched 78 years ago and now generates some $240M in sales at the show every year. 
Educations Committee Co-Chairs, Lori Walker and Roy Chang closed the day’s meeting with a reminder about a special showing of activist documentary,  “Literacy Shouts Out for Action”, a film about illiteracy in the U.S. and its cost in dollars and lives.  The film will be shown on January 23 at the downtown Seattle Public Library.   More Information can be found on the website.  
They shared some startling data points:   1.2 million young people drop out of school each year; 67% of students can’t read 9 years of age, cost of illiteracy if $2.2 Trillion!   The film will be followed with a panel discussion about ways to address the problem here.
-Thank you to meeting reporter Pete Delaunay for this week's stellar report!
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