The health of our planet and the future economy will both rely on the resiliency of our oceans. To meet this urgency, Santa Monica College (SMC) students will have the opportunity to explore aquaculture and work with some of the leading businesses and scientists in the field. These groundbreaking collaborations will shepherd in a new era of workforce development in the blue economy.
A multi-year grant from Builders Initiative and community project funding from US Senator Alex Padilla will enable SMC to fund curriculum development and provide faculty support for its innovative new Aquaculture Certificate programme. The new career pathway, designed to serve the needs of the growing aquaculture industry, will include a series of courses and material covering marine biology; phycology; seawater chemistry; aquaculture; hatchery techniques; living system design and an internship.
“I am proud to have secured funding that will give LA students STEM learning experiences in the emerging Blue Economy – a vital and growing sector of California’s 21st century economy,” Senator Alex Padilla said in an announcement earlier this year. “This programme will provide students in underserved communities a pathway to good-paying jobs that tackle climate change and our most pressing challenges.”
As part of the programme, SMC is partnering with AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, a sprawling 35-acre non-profit centre devoted to accelerating scientific collaboration and advancing the blue economy through business innovation and job creation. Drawing equitable pathways for workforce training and career placement, the partnership will encourage students to work alongside the world’s finest marine scientists as they conduct breakthrough research and discover solutions in areas such as energy supply, climate change, and global food security.
“According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) Institute of Applied Economics, conservative estimates indicate that the value of the blue economy will double over the next decade, with a projected global value of $3 trillion by 2030,” said SMC superintendent and president Kathryn E Jeffery, PhD. “That is a staggering number, and we want to position our students for the first opportunities that exist in one of the world’s fastest growing business sectors.”
As the industry grows, it will need trained workers with the specific skills and knowledge to hit the ground running. This expertise will allow the industry to rapidly evolve and serve many needs such as providing healthy, locally-sourced protein; restoring habitats; sequestering carbon and providing raw inputs for many culinary, industrial and pharmaceutical products.
“To save our oceans and shift to a more sustainable global food system, the world needs a rising tide of curiosity, ingenuity and stewardship, and the classroom is where this all begins. We’re thrilled to see how the students of Santa Monica College answer this call,” says Jelani Odlum, senior associate programme officer at Builders Initiative. “We know that the next generation of ocean advocates, business leaders and experts will rise out of interdisciplinary efforts like this, in spaces where students aren’t just educated but activated.”
This new relationship between SMC and AltaSea will create a myriad of benefits not only for students, but for businesses rapidly expanding in the blue economy.
All students will be placed in an internship, with a goal to ultimately connect them with a job in their field of study. Meanwhile, blue economy companies will benefit from having a direct pipeline to a well-trained workforce.
The long-term vision of the programme is to create post-secondary certificate and degree programmes that span blue economy industries and fields of study. In turn, The Builders Initiative believes this will scale in-demand programmes across the LA region in conjunction with the consortium of community colleges in Los Angeles County.