Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Pacific Lutheran University Addresses Maritime Workforce


May 1, 2017

Students in the PLU's Certificate in Maritime Management participate in a tour of the Port of Tacoma. Photo by John Froschauer courtesy of PLU.

The maritime industry has long been recognized as a major contributor of living wage jobs and economic growth in Washington State (Washington State Cluster Economic Impact Study, 2013). One of the key factors in maintaining this positive economic impact has been workforce development, which the Washington State legislature recently recommended as priority areas for both legislative and non-legislative actions in their recent report, Joint Legislative Task Force on the Economic Resilience of Maritime and Manufacturing – Final Report, 2016.

Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) is responding to this on-going training need by offering a Certificate in Maritime Management ( The short-term, non-credit program was first offered in winter of 2016 to twenty participants from a variety of industries and is on schedule to welcome its third cohort this spring.

Based on input from industry leaders at the Port of Tacoma, The Northwest Seaport Alliance, and individual terminal operators at the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle, the program is designed to address the maritime industry's middle management needs by providing students content in several key areas: global and local maritime industry, management theory and practice, vessel and terminal management, vessel and terminal operations, and maritime law and regulation.

Catherine Pratt, Assistant Professor of Management at PLU's School of Business, teaches the section on management theory and practice, which has been revised to include immediately actionable skills for leading and working with others. She emphasizes the importance of the material by stating, "At a time of dramatic change in the competitive markets of the maritime industry, it is more critical than ever that leaders and managers be able to successfully engage employees in achieving organizational goals." She further notes that the fundamentals of good management skills and the ability to work well with others are not unique to any one industry.

The general application of the material across businesses that Pratt delivers makes the content highly accessible to a variety of students, regardless of their level of management experience. Likewise, Pratt's background delivering leadership training to companies and organizations in Pierce County, often in collaboration with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, enables her to reference specific cases from the local economy that students can recognize.

Another component of the program's curriculum that has been enhanced to give students more direct exposure to the industry is the tour of the Port of Tacoma. The full day tour falls after the sections on terminal and vessel management and operations and allows students to investigate up close the equipment, tools, systems, and procedures that they learn in class.

Mark Miller, CEO of MacMillan Piper, Inc., leads the tour and describes the experience as a rare opportunity.

"The students' favorite part of the course is the tour of the various operations at the Port of Tacoma," he says. "This part of the course provides students with an intimate look into various port operations."

During the tour, industry experts in each of the port functions will provide the students with more perspective as the operations are actively taking place.

"This is an opportunity that the general public seldom, if ever, gets to see or participate in," Miller says.

Miller is also the lead instructor for the entire program. His maritime academy education and breadth of experience in the industry places him in a strong position for organizing the sections, interacting with students, and recruiting industry specialists as guest speakers. Miller covers the initial overview of the industry as well as the sections dealing with terminal and vessel management and operations.

In addition to Miller and Pratt, Steve Block with Foster Pepper PLLC teaches the section on maritime law and regulation. Block's knowledge of the law and his long history of advocating for clients in the maritime industry give students an opportunity to understand how the law has been developed and applied over time. Moreover, his explanations of various codes and analyses of specific cases facilitates student learning of the many nuances that shape maritime law and regulation.

Regarding the students of the program, the Certificate in Maritime Management has attracted a diverse group of women and men from a variety of sectors, such as active duty military, logistics managers, entrepreneurs in international trade, warehouse clerks, union dock workers, historians, high school teachers, and recruiters in the field, such as June Milliard of Maritime Recruiters, LLC. Milliard participated in parts of the first and second cohorts and also attended a networking event for the program that PLU sponsored last fall at the offices of Foster Pepper in downtown Seattle. Milliard sees value in the program for people transitioning into the industry.

Instructor and CEO of MacMillan-Piper, Inc., Mark Miller provides students an overview of the Port of Tacoma facilities. Photo by John Froschauer courtesy of PLU.

"With so many maritime jobs in Washington state," she remarks, "it has been great to gain a high level of comprehension of such a large industry in the Puget Sound."

John Wolfe, CEO of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, reinforces Milliard's view. "An estimated 40 percent of Washington State's jobs are related to international trade," Wolfe says. "Recognizing how important this sector is to our state's economy, PLU's Certificate in Maritime Management program will help us continue to attract skilled people to the shipping industry."

Wolfe's remarks are in line with Washington's Joint Legislative Task Force report cited above. There is visible momentum by both public and private entities to keep the State's maritime industry robust through educational programs that develop and train the workforce of the future. PLU's Certificate in Maritime Management represents a small, but meaningful, contribution to this end.


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