U.S. COAST GUARD
Coast Guard Lt. Pedro Vazquez talks with students from
Banning High School in Wilmington, Calif., while underway
on the tall ship Exy Johnson in May in the Port of Los
Angeles. The U.S. Maritime Administration has unveiled a
new maritime high school curriculum it hopes will spark
interest in, and prepare students for, maritime careers.
“With the development of this curriculum, the
Maritime Administration has created a firm cornerstone
on which individual maritime schools can build,” U.S.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Coast Guard and
Maritime Transportation subcommittee, said in a Nov. 24
press release. “The maritime industry offers endless
opportunities for our young people, and I am extremely
pleased to see this giant step forward in attracting and
training the next generation of U.S. mariners.”
Under the new curriculum, students during their freshman year will gain a general understanding of the maritime industry, its history and the role the maritime sector
plays in the everyday lives of Americans, McKeever said.
During their sophomore year, they will be introduced to the various jobs and the requirements necessary to work in the industry.
In their junior and senior years, the students can
choose a career path — between the Merchant Marine,
shipbuilding and repair, and port operations — so that
they can receive training tailored to that path.
The ninth grade lesson plans for the curriculum,
which has been in development for about a year, are
almost complete, McKeever said. However, a great deal
of work remains to develop a working curriculum for
the 10th through 12th grades, she said.
Maritime educators said it was about time for something like the MARAD curriculum.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of models,” said Murray
Fisher, the founder and program director at New York
Harbor School, which opened in 2002 with the mission of “creating a corps of water-related professionals,” including water resource managers, users, scientists and conservationists. “The MARAD curriculum
will save schools that are thinking about incorporating
a maritime curriculum a lot of time,” he said.
Fisher added that the Harbor School will start to
incorporate elements of the MARAD curriculum, saying he thinks it will “produce students that are job
ready and college ready.”
The New York Harbor School, in the Bushwick area
of Brooklyn, has seen tremendous success from its own
program in a short amount of time. The school was
formed when Bushwick High School was divided into
three smaller schools, one of them the Harbor School.
Compared to Bushwick High School, which had a 23
percent graduation rate, the Harbor School boasted a
65 percent rate for its first class, said Fisher. He expects
that to increase.
“A course of study with specific emphasis on the
maritime industry, such as maritime history, marine literature and marine science, can complement existing
course requirements by enhancing students’ development of basic skills, such as reading, writing and determining mathematical calculations,” said McKeever.
Those schools that are able to incorporate the entire
curriculum for one or more of the career paths will
ensure that their students have the knowledge and
skills for success in the maritime industry, she said.
From there, graduates can choose to go directly to
work for a shipyard or maritime company/union, or
continue their education by attending a maritime academy, college or trade school, she added.
For those who have been touting the need for more
qualified mariners, the new curriculum is welcome.
“We applaud efforts to attract people to an industry
that is nothing short of vital to America’s national and
economic security,” said George Tricker, Seafarers
International Union vice president of contracts. “Our
union is engaged in similar efforts through our affiliated training center, in terms of both recruiting individuals and providing a solid foundation that launches
successful maritime careers. There are excellent career
opportunities in this industry, and they’re only going
to grow in the years ahead.” ■