Gov. Jay Inslee visited the North Olympic Peninsula on Thursday to discuss the area’s maritime industry and celebrate a collaborative spirit among businesses, local governments, tribes and residents to attract and train maritime workers through workforce development and career-related learning opportunities.
Inslee visited both Clallam and Jefferson counties, where he urged recruitment and training of maritime industry workers.
According to the governor’s office, the state’s maritime industry supports more than 146,000 jobs in the state; however the average age of the workforce is 54 years old.
Preparing a new generation of maritime worker is critical to the Washington Maritime Blue strategic initiative which promotes innovation and sustainability in the state’s maritime industry, Inslee’s office said.
Part of the governor’s itinerary was a visit to the Adventuress, one of two National Historical Landmark sailing ships still sailing West Coast waters. The schooner was declared Puget Sound’s official Environmental Tall Ship in 2016 and makes its home in Port Townsend during the summer months.
Catherine Collins — executive director of Sound Experience, which operates the Adventuress’ programs — welcomed the governor and other dignitaries aboard the vessel for a tour.
“Over 50,000 young people have sailed aboard over the past 30 years,” Collins told the governor.
“They are scattered around the region in all kinds of jobs relating the the maritime industry, and they come back and tell us how sailing on the Adventuress changed their lives.”
The Adventuress has received a grant for a partnership in Pierce County for young people who have been in the court system, Collins told the governor.
“Thanks to State Representative Mike Chapman and Governor Inslee for championing the capital budget,” she continued. “The Adventuress will be undergoing the final phase of restoration, a new deck.”
Two highly competitive State Heritage Capital Projects grants, one in 2013 and one in 2017 will fund the restoration of the wooden hull and provide jobs.
Inslee said that the Adventuress is a state treasure.
“I can’t think of a more effective way to connect young people both with their potential futures and with the environment than to have an experience on the water in a historic vessel,” he said.
“We have a real shortage in the maritime trades. A small exposure sometimes can change a kid’s life. This is consistent with my “Leave No Child Beside” initiative, and why it is effective,” he added.
”You have to get kids outside so they can understand what we have here.”
After his stop in Port Townsend, the governor visited the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock. A $100,000 award from the governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund/Work Start program helped the school develop a marine systems training program to meet the needs of boat building companies in Jefferson County.
Earlier in the day, the governor visited Port Angeles, where he toured Armstrong Marine and the Peninsula College welding program and participated in a roundtable discussion on Opportunity Zones at the college.
At Armstrong Marine he learned how a Strategic Reserve Fund award and a collaboration with Peninsula College helped develop a curriculum and training for the 90 certified aluminum welders needed to help Armstrong build barges for a U.S. Navy contract.
Five tribes, three cities, a port and a county economic development corporation came together to create the Emerald Coast Opportunity zone, designated by the governor in April.
A federal program that gives investors tax breaks if they invest in qualified private businesses in designated Opportunity Zones.
The partnership includes the Jamestown S’Kallam, Quileute Nation, Hoh, Makah and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes; the Clallam County Economic Development Corporation; the cities of Sequim, Forks and Port Angeles; and the Port of Port Angeles.
The governor was especially impressed with the students in the welding program.
“A highlight of my morning was talking to the student welders and hearing of their dreams and careers and seeing them light up as they described their work,” he said.
“They have such diverse ideas. Some want to go into the shipping industry and use welding, some wanted to build aluminum boats, some wanted to use it for art. T
“They all have such diverse interests, but they all have something in common: realizing a dream through the program at Peninsula College.”