U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today announced that the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) has been awarded $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to establish a comprehensive Maine aquaculture workforce training program that will help students pursue careers in the growing field. In launching the program, GMRI will work with the Maine Department of Labor and multiple community colleges to create aquaculture apprenticeship opportunities and new aquaculture courses, allowing participants to gain real-world experience in the field while pursuing a college degree.
“For centuries, Maine’s waters have supported our coastal communities and driven important economic activity for our state. Aquaculture presents a significant opportunity to expand on this long tradition, and create good-paying Maine jobs for the 21st century,” said Senators Collins and King. “Thanks to this funding from the USDA and the partnership from organizations across our state, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s new training program will open important career paths and help create economic opportunity right here in our communities. We greatly appreciate all the work that has made this training program possible.”
"Aquaculture represents a significant career opportunity for Mainers. Anyone with a strong work ethic and interest in making a living on the water will soon have access to affordable and convenient training opportunities around the state,” said Don Perkins, GMRI President and CEO. “GMRI is honored to be working with Southern Maine Community College, Maine Aquaculture Association, EducateMaine, and the Department of Labor to build training and apprenticeship pathways for people to build a life-long and rewarding career in Maine’s growing aquaculture industry."
With this funding, GMRI will develop and pilot a Maine Department of Labor (DOL) Aquaculture Apprenticeship Program where participants will gain valuable experience, receive mentoring, get trained and tested on defined occupational competencies, and learn to use cutting-edge technology at Maine's most sophisticated commercial shellfish and sea vegetable farms. This will be done in conjunction with a series of credentialed aquaculture short courses at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) that form the basis of an Aquaculture Certificate. This will be coordinated between SMCC, Washington County Community College, The Mid-Coast School of Technology, and Maine DOL apprenticeship to establish dual-credit programs that enable fast-tracked degree completion.
Senators Collins and King have long been proponents of ocean-based technological development in the region and supportive of GMRI’s work. The Senators previously announced a nearly $750,000 grant to GMRI in April for the Gulf of Maine Blue Economy Initiative, a program designed to boost competitiveness of the region’s seafood industry, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate economic growth. Senators Collins and King have also supported funding to GMRI for its efforts to support climate change education, and explore climate impacts on fish populations.
GMRI is a Portland, Maine based nonprofit organization that researches the complex marine ecology of the Gulf of Maine and studies the many challenges of ocean stewardship and economic growth in the region. The institute provides students and teachers with science education resources and engages fishermen in collaborative research.