An underwater robot known as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) carefully navigates the precarious terrain of Lo’ihi, an active undersea volcano located off the coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. The ROV’s operators maneuver the vehicle into a small opening in the wall of a crater, hoping to collect samples of a species potentially new to science. Will they succeed before an earthquake or eruption forces them to abort the mission?
On a global basis, the economic importance of ocean industries cannot be overstated. Between three and five percent of Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to be generated by marine-based industries and services (not including the value of raw materials, such as oil, gas, or fish), and Europe’s maritime regions account for more than 40% of its GDP. Ocean industries contribute nearly Can$23 million and more than US$117 billion to their respective GDPs. Marine-related industries require highly skilled technical professionals to continue to grow their contribution to the global economy. Recruiting well-trained and competent professionals is critical to their survival.
Ocean industries account for twenty percent of the U.S. economy and support one in six jobs. Offshore oil and gas industries, telecommunications, underwater archaeology, underwater engineering and construction, shipping, port and harbor security, and ocean research all depend on ocean-related technologies. Recruiting highly-skilled technical professionals to support ocean activities is critical. Yet, despite the need for a well-prepared technical workforce, students and educators are not always aware of the ocean-related career opportunities because the educational pathways to these careers have not been well mapped out and promoted. There are only a handful of programs whose curricula are clearly aligned with relevant workforce needs, and even fewer articulated pathways that connect middle schools to high schools to community colleges and universities.