Joshua Berger, state lead for the maritime sector, speaks to Elizabeth Becker and Zoe Ballering from Sound Experience on Friday. Berger, Becker and Ballering were all at Port Townsend High School to discuss maritime career options with students. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Joshua Berger, state lead for the maritime sector, speaks to Elizabeth Becker and Zoe Ballering from Sound Experience on Friday. Berger, Becker and Ballering were all at Port Townsend High School to discuss maritime career options with students. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

State official urges Port Townsend students toward maritime industry opportunities

PORT TOWNSEND — The state lead for maritime sector economic development wants students to know there are opportunities waiting for them on and around the water.

“It’s really about opening people up to the opportunities in this historic industry,” said Joshua Berger, director of maritime sector economic development for the state Department of Commerce. “It’s the third largest economic driver in our state and the pathways are open now to everyone, especially women and people from under-represented populations. The jobs are available.”

Berger was a featured speaker at Port Townsend High School on Friday to talk to students about the variety of job opportunities available to them in the state’s growing maritime industries.

Berger’s speech was part of the high school’s Salon Series, which is meant to bring students and community members together to educate and inspire everyone, according to Kelley Watson, a maritime career and technical education teacher for the high school and the person who invited Berger.

“It’s important that students understand there’s huge opportunities in the state so they can make informed career decisions,” said Watson. “There’s plenty of career opportunities and variations of what those look like.”

Berger covered the basic job descriptions and training pathways for a variety of maritime jobs.

He discussed his time working on a tow boat, and that the benefits of working a job like that are the opportunities to make a year’s worth of income in just a few months. He said it’s similar to working on fishing vessels in Alaska for the summer season.

“That’s fun work,” Berger said. “There’s seamanship and skill, but it’s challenging and not for everybody either.”

Berger said that many jobs at sea, including on fishing vessels or deep sea cargo ships, involve being off of land and away from loved ones for extended periods of time.

“You get homesick,” Berger said, “and sea sick.”

However, Berger stressed that the maritime industry isn’t all about being out on the ocean.

“The future of maritime is clear,” Berger said. “We’re getting clean and we’re doing it in terms of clean fuel, we’re doing it in terms of new coatings and now stormwater systems in our ports.”

Berger said the emergence of robotics in ports has opened the maritime industry to engineers and app developers.

“It’s not just welders and the people pulling oil through the Panama Canal,” Berger said. “It’s engineers and program managers and app developers.”

The maritime industry in Washington is growing at 6.5 percent each year, and Berger said it is one of the biggest providers of living wage jobs both in cities and in rural areas.

“This is all about workforce development,” Berger said. “The training is affordable and these are family living wage jobs, and getting kids into this starts in middle school and high school.”

Also in attendance were local partners in the Port Townsend School District’s Maritime Discovery Program, a program implemented to provide hands-on learning and to give students the opportunity to take advantage of maritime training programs close to home while still in high school.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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