TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Port of Tampa Bay has a problem. The workforce is aging, but a port industry group and the Hillsborough County School District are helping to solve the problem.
They've formulated a high school curriculum for maritime studies.
The Honors Maritime Academy at Jefferson High School opened in 2014. Ashley Hallaian will be among the first graduates this year.
"I want to get a bachelor of science and become a Coast Guard's 3rd Mate," says Ashley. "I can work my way up and become a captain and eventually a pilot within the Port of Tampa."
She's been accepted at the prestigious SUNY Maritime Academy in New York. It's the largest in the nation. Her acceptance is a big success for an industry group at the port whose members saw what was happening.
"There are a lot of people who are retiring and not many people coming in with an application for employment," says Christopher Koehler, of the law firm of Fowler Rodrguez, and member of the Propellor Club board, whose members are from various businesses around the port.
The curriculum they helped the school district craft includes subjects from ship building, to admiralty law and oceanography, to engineering. More than a dozen companies around the port have allowed students to come in for job shadowing and internships.
Maritime courses are also offered at Blake High School in Tampa. Koehler says the state has approved the maritime curriculum developed in Tampa and other Florida counties may begin using it.