HOUSTON — San Jacinto College South Campus students in the introduction to ships and shipping course (MARA 2401) are getting hands-on learning experiences within the Houston maritime industry.
On a recent visit to Wallenius-Wilhelmsen Lines at the Port of Galveston, students toured Pier 10, where rolling (or ro-ro) cargo is prepped for import into the United States and also staged for export to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Australia, and South America. Students got a chance to see cargo-handling operations as dock personnel readied inbound BMWs and other automobiles for national distribution, and learned about documentation and freight management of outbound military vehicles and heavy construction equipment.
Student Steven Lair was particularly impressed with the process. With no prior logistics or maritime administration background, Lair says this course is why he has chosen to pursue a career in maritime administration. “I originally signed up for the class because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I thought this would be a good way to learn more about the maritime industry,” said Lair. “I’ve learned so much from this one class that I definitely want a career in this field. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, there will definitely be more job opportunities coming to Houston involving maritime. I have friends that graduated with business degrees over a year ago who are still looking for jobs. I feel confident I’ll have an easier time finding a job with a maritime administration degree.”
The San Jacinto College ships and shipping course introduces students to shipboard nomenclature, types of vessels, shipbuilding, navigation, methods of cargo handling, rules of the road, maritime trade and regulation, as well as weather patterns and their impact on vessel operation. Scheduled labs include field trips to Port of Houston and Port of Galveston wharves where students get hands-on instruction in port operations, trucking and rail transportation, and the oil and gas industry. They also get to interact with industry leaders to get a feel for this career field. “This class definitely teaches you all the terminology you need to know when you’re out in the field, and it’s great being able to go on-site at different shipyards and know exactly what everyone is talking about and working on,” said Lair, who will transfer to Texas A&M University at Galveston to begin classes this Fall for a bachelor of science degree in maritime administration.
As part of an articulation agreement with Texas A&M University at Galveston, San Jacinto College students may complete the ships and shipping course at the South Campus as part of an associate degree in business administration. The students can then transfer to Texas A&M at Galveston for a bachelor of science in maritime administration. The MARA 2401 course at the South Campus is the equivalent of the University’s MARA 205 course, which means when a student transfers, he or she will be one step ahead and can skip the introductory course and devote more time to other courses in the program.
Houston and Galveston’s shipping industries can provide lucrative job opportunities for students with maritime training and degrees. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, annual salaries for U.S. Gulf Coast cargo and freight agents average $40,500; sailors and marine oilers average $42,600; ship engineers average $65,700; and captains, mates, and water vessel pilots average $87,800. Total projected employment through 2018 in these areas comes to 10,580 jobs that will be available over the next six years.
With the Panama Canal expansion opening in 2014, an aging workforce in the maritime and other industries, and the resulting impact to the Houston Port region, more maritime employees and an expanded maritime workforce pipeline are needed. In March, San Jacinto College received a TWC Skills Development Fund grant of $616,865 to train 140 new workers and upskill 343 incumbent workers in Coast Guard approved courses.
For more information on the introduction to ships and shipping course (MARA 2401) and the SJC transfer program with Texas A&M University at Galveston, visit www.sanjac.edu/tamug-transfer. The College offers a business and logistics maritime degree program, and will introduce a maritime technology degree program this Fall. For more information, visit www.sanjac.edu/areas-study.
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