MYSTIC, CT (January 19, 2023) – Mystic Aquarium today announced it is receiving $650,000 in federal funding, secured by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal with support from U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations agreement, to establish the Blue Economy Workforce Development Initiative: Creating a Pathway for Underserved Youth. The initiative recognizes the region’s growing blue economy sector, the commitment to the responsible development of offshore wind to combat climate change, the need for a diverse, skilled workforce, and the reality that underserved youth face many barriers to entry.
The Blue Economy Initiative is a partnership between Mystic Aquarium and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Key players are the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut’s Innovation Center in New London, and 10 youth-serving organizations throughout Connecticut. “We are excited to be part of this forward-thinking initiative,” said Tony Sheridan, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. “Mystic Aquarium provides unique education and workforce development opportunities in these industries that so desperately need talented and skilled workers. Marine careers are very important to this region and its future. This initiative will prepare and inspire the next generation and help ensure Connecticut remains at the forefront of the emerging Blue Economy.”
The initiative will leverage Mystic Aquarium’s unique expertise in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and environmental education, experiential learning, multimedia content development, and youth mentoring. It will also utilize Mystic Aquarium’s exhibit and related resources on renewable ocean energy, as well as partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the offshore wind and waterpower industry, and community-based youth-serving organizations.
With Connecticut being a critical hub for the burgeoning offshore wind industry, this innovative public private partnership will help young people develop awareness, interest, knowledge, and skills to help prepare them for competitive jobs in an emerging regional industry that desperately needs skilled workers. While focusing on underserved youth from major urban centers in Connecticut, the initiative’s website and digital resources will have a national reach, utilized by Mystic Aquarium’s network of partner youth-serving organizations located in high-needs communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico.
While most Blue Economy workforce development initiatives are aimed at higher education, that is often too late for many low-income, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) youth, who may already be turned off, or turned away, from these careers. Mystic Aquarium is addressing this problem as a priority. “By introducing k-12 youth and educators to exciting blue economy content and connecting them with career professionals and role models that are diverse and relatable, young people will be more likely to pursue related coursework, understand career pathways, and see those careers as both desirable and attainable.” said Katie Cubina, Senior Vice President for Mission Programs at Mystic Aquarium. “We are so grateful to our U.S. Representatives for advocating for this exciting initiative, and to our many partners who are committed to working with us to develop and test this innovative model”.