Anne-Marije Rook
Doug Dixon, General Manager of the Pacific Fisherman Shipyard, led a tour around the shipyard's premises for U.S. Senator Patty Murray.

Senator Murray tours Ballard's Pacific Shipyard, highlights 19,000 open jobs in Seattle in need of skilled workers

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray toured Ballard's Pacific Fisherman Shipyard with local workers, businesses owners and students to discuss the importance of making sure workers have the skills and training they need to fill local jobs.

Doug Dixon, General Manager of the Pacific Fisherman Shipyard, led the tour and pointed out the various new editions to the shipyard funded by a $1 million dollar Small Shipyard Stimulus Funding Grant under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This funding also paid, in part, for worker training, Dixon said.

"The maritime industry is a perfect example of an industry that's changing. They have an aging workforce and a need to attract young blood," Senator Patty Murray said.

Murray said in Seattle there are around 19,000 open positions but that business are having a hard time finding workers with the skills and training they need to fill those open positions.

"This doesn’t make sense—we have workers who want to work, and we have businesses that want to hire. But we need to do a better job of bridging that skills gap," she said.

Which is why she's pushing for the Career Pathways legislation and the Workforce Investment Act. The Career Pathway legislation would help young people leaving high school get the skills and training they need to enter the workforce, while the Workforce Investment Act is critical to retraining workers and ensuring the aging workforce is upgrading their skills.

"Students feel the work they're doing in school is not relevant to the work they'll be doing in the real world. And a lot of times, they're right," Murray said. "If we want to outgrow, out-innovate other countries, we need to out-educate, out-train our workforce."

Jeffrey Harris, a product of SODO Inc which give students hands-on exposure to a range of careers in various industries including the maritime industry, said he's grateful for the program for introducing him to an industry he would otherwise never have considered.

"I've seen how this program can be beneficial for people my age to get the ball rolling," he said.

Kaelan Haynie, a former Ballard High Maritime Academy students, echoed Harris' statement and was grateful for the insight the Maritime Academy had given him to the various paths into the industry.

Murray said the Maritime Academy and SODO Inc are exactly the kind of partnerships between private businesses and educators that the pathways legislation aims for and which are needed for middle and high school students to get the proper training to fill local jobs.

"There's such a focus on budget cuts at the moment. But we need to maintain our training programs or it will hinder our growth in the long run," Murray said.

"Internship programs are key in maintaining our workforce," Dixon agreed. "We welcome what Patty is doing. It helps us a lot and I hope it gets support throughout the nation."

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