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Growth at Seattle Maritime Academy expands opportunity to more students

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With  fresh leadership and a new building under construction , the Seattle Maritime Academy at Seattle Central is poised to prepare more students for positions in the Puget Sound region’s rapidly-growing maritime industry.

Seattle Central College’s Seattle Maritime Academy is experiencing big changes that mirror the growth of the Maritime industry in the Puget Sound region. A new, 24,000-square-foot educational building at its Ballard campus is progressing toward completion. This will expand the number of students the academy educates, giving more people the opportunity to train for well-paying careers as professional mariners. And the academy recently hired a new director, Sarah Scherer, who will work to create relevant programs that ensure the industry has a pool of highly-skilled mariners to fill vital positions.

A fresh perspective

Scherer took the helm of the Seattle Maritime Academy this month after a well-rounded career in the maritime industry. Her experience includes positions in navigation, research and management with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as training, safety and operations positions with commercial maritime companies. Scherer has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Sciences from Texas A&M University at Galveston, and a Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science in Coaching and Consulting in Organizations from Bastyr University.

“I have several priorities that will help Seattle Maritime Academy fulfil its potential,” Scherer said. “I want to focus on providing students the best learning experience possible, and connect with industry partners to make sure our students leave with the skills employers want. I also want to raise the academy’s profile in the community.”

Scherer’s responsibilities include educational leadership and administrative management of the academy. She has experience helping non-traditional students earn GEDs and training adult mariners to stay current with industry regulations. This background will help her foster a conducive learning environment for adult learners.  Two new grant-funded programs that will support apprenticeships and introduce high school students to maritime career opportunities will also launch this year under Scherer’s leadership.

Rising to opportunity

Scherer starts at an opportune time for the academy. Maritime industry employers like the Washington State Ferries face a shortage of deckhands due to an aging workforce, as recently reported by the Seattle Times. To help train the next generation of mariners, the Seattle Maritime Academy began re-offering its U.S. Coast Guard-approved Marine Deck Technology Program again last fall.

This one-year program trains students for employment as Able-Bodied Seamen, who are responsible for loading vehicles, manning lifeboats, handling lines and knots and assisting mates/captains. The starting salary for graduates of this program is nearly $50,000 per year, with many opportunities for graduates to rise in rank and earn more.

“The programs at Seattle Maritime Academy help to bolster the middle class in Seattle,” Scherer said. “They fill a very specific vocational need in our region while offering good employment opportunities that offer high wages for graduates, especially for a one-year program.”

The academy also offers a Marine Engineering Technology program that partners with Washington State Ferries and other employers to grant internships to its students. The ferries have agreed to accept ten Engineering interns from the Seattle Maritime Academy this summer, where students often go on to work full-time after graduation. Marine Engineering graduates, who generally work on mechanical systems of vessels like steering and propulsion, can earn up to $70,000 in their first jobs.

Looking forward

By the summer of 2016, the academy will have a new, advanced facility that will enable it to expand existing programs and develop new programs to meet industry needs. Additionally, the academy can train more students with the larger space, and new features will modernize how they learn, it will The Silver LEED Certified-building will include laboratories for diesel engines, refrigeration, and hydraulics, as well as a state-of-the-art simulation laboratory for individual and team training.


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