By Rick Smeriglio for Seward City News – Between 100 and 200 persons, mainly students, attended the annual job fair hosted by Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward on Monday, April 7. At least six maritime employers handed out applications and company information. Several said they had hired from AVTEC programs in the past. Riki Clark, crewing administrator for Crowley Maritime Corporation, said she had hired one person on the spot that day. Although various freight-, research- and cruising-related companies had limited positions currently open, one new operation in Seward had six open. Vigor Industries, likely purchaser of the shipyard and dry dock at Seward Marine Industrial Center, has advertised for skills taught at AVTEC.
Because the parties have not fully formalized the deal, hiring officials at Vigor’s table said the shipyard could expect a new owner in about 4 to 5 weeks. One characterized the announcement as “just about that close” gesturing to the narrow space between his thumb and forefinger. The human resources representative said that all persons currently employed at the shipyard would have to re-apply for their respective jobs. She did not anticipate stoppage of work.
Many skills and trades sought by Vigor and others had training programs at AVTEC. Machinist, painter, welder, pipe fitter, safety/health technician, able seaman, refrigeration and vessel-master skills seemed in demand. Coastal Transportation Inc., a firm that operates six large freighters in the Aleutian trade, needs people with refrigeration skills. Coastal moves fishing gear to the Aleutian Islands and frozen fish back to Seattle from the Aleutians. According to Beth St. Pierre, Vessel Operations Assistant for Coastal Transportation, her firm has hired AVTEC students in the past.
Said St. Pierre, “We like Seward because of its basis in fishing. Fishing people make good sailors.”
Jan Kristenson, Human Resources Officer for UAF Seward Marine Center, said that R/V Sikuliaq has already hired its regular crew. However, she also said that the vessel would often need relief crew when it comes to its homeport of Seward. She emphasized that she meant hands-on crew to run and maintain the ship, not scientists and researchers.
Heather Shank, Office Manager for Anderson Tug & Barge and Cook Inlet Towing, said that she anticipated a surge in hiring for summer season beginning in May. She pointed out that towing vessels require special towing skills from vessel masters, but that her company also needs qualified AB seamen as well. Qualified AB’s have merchant marine credentials. AVTEC’s maritime program prepares students to acquire credentials as a qualified member of the engine department (QMED) as well as an Able Seaman.
Shank remarked, “We’ve had some AB’s come through today, they look promising.”
At the Crowley Marine desk, Riki Clark said that she needed engineers and people with QMED credentials. Crowley has partnered with AVTEC to offer scholarships and other assistance to students interested in maritime careers. As do other transportation employers, Crowley requires drug-testing, background searching and credentialing.
Clark said of her recruiting efforts at the job fair, “This has been a very successful trip.”