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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Washington, D.C.
Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 27, 2022 and Island Ad-Vantages, January 27, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, January 27, 2022
Award from USDA will fund aquaculture workforce training program

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King have announced that the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has been awarded $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant will be used to establish a comprehensive Maine aquaculture workforce training program that will help students pursue careers in the growing field, according to a press release.

GMRI is a Maine-based nonprofit that researches the marine ecology of the Gulf of Maine and studies the many challenges of ocean stewardship and economic growth in the region.

GMRI will work with the Maine Department of Labor and multiple community colleges to create aquaculture apprenticeship opportunities and new aquaculture courses that will allow participants to acquire real-world experience in the field while pursuing a college degree.

According to the release, GMRI will develop and pilot a Maine Department of Labor Aquaculture Apprenticeship Program where participants will gain valuable experience, get trained and tested on defined occupational competencies, receive mentoring and learn to use cutting-edge technology at Maine’s most sophisticated commercial shellfish and sea vegetable farms.

This work will be done in conjunction with a series of credentialed aquaculture short courses at Southern Maine Community College that will form the basis of an Aquaculture Certificate. The coursework 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.

Collins and King have long been proponents of ocean-based technological development in the region and supportive of GMRI’s work, according to the release. They previously announced a nearly $750,000 grant to GMRI in April 2021 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.