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Massachusetts college pursues marine training center

A Massachusetts community college president wants to turn a new Ocean Campus Center he is working to open in Marshfield, Mass., into a hub for marine training.

Massasoit Community College president Charles Wall says the prospects for the school, which would train workers in the recreational and commercial marine industry, are higher now than they have ever been in the six-year effort because of a business park land donation by Verrochi Realty Trust.

“We’re looking to be a hub for your industry ... for professional development, for speaker series, for short-term training seminars, and frankly, we’re looking to attract people from around the region,” Wall told attendees Wednesday at a Marine Retail University event sponsored by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

“I feel we can attract that kind of attendance and attention with this Ocean Center if we do it right,” Wall said. “I know we’ll do it right. It’s still a tall order; basically, we’re setting up a new school.”

Wall has been working with the Marine and Environmental Educational Alliance, a non-profit developed to spearhead the effort, as well as local governments and the private sector, on the marine center’s development.

“We’ve been engaged in intensive research and conversations to determine what the next step should be to have a permanent training center on the south shore serving all of Massachusetts, and we hope New Hampshire and Maine,” Wall said.

The teaming between the public and private sector has created some hurdles, but Wall says the last six months have seen amazing progress following the land donation, as well as a favorable feasibility study about the need for more marine training in the region.

The donated land is in a business park already zoned for commercial use.

The effort has also received support from politicians that include U.S. Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve made tremendous progress on setting up this education and training center,” Wall said.

Massasoit Community College would oversee the academics in concert with other academic institutions in southeast Massachusetts, including the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the National Marine Sanctuary and the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

It will offer non-accredited programs, short-term programs and longer-term programs that provide credit ultimately leading to associate degrees and linkages to baccalaureate degrees, Wall said.

“We want folks to get degrees, but certifications in specialties are becoming more and more important,” Wall said. “I see this as a great resource.”

— Reagan Haynes