EDALC Invests in Future Seafood Workforce: High School Seafood Butchery Program Now Underway! 

The Oregon Coast is known for its abundant seafood, but 90 percent of what’s caught is shipped out of state. OCVA’s Oregon Ocean Cluster Initiative (OCI) is looking to change that. To keep more seafood local, we are starting to deploy resources to help local entrepreneurs build seafood processing operations and food systems that keep more Oregon seafood in the state. A key part of this work is to ensure that there is a strong and skilled workforce for the future of this industry.

The OCI High School Seafood Butchery Pilot Program is a major step towards this goal, and thanks to the generous funding from the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County, it’s now being deployed at six coastal high schools!

The Challenge: A Workforce Gap in the Blue Economy

The seafood industry is a vital part of the Oregon Coast’s economy, but it faces a critical challenge: a lack of skilled workers. The High School Seafood Butchery Pilot Program was developed to address this need. This innovative program equips high school students with the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to excel in the “Blue Economy” –  the sustainable use of ocean resources.

The Pilot Program: A Comprehensive Curriculum for the Future Seafood Workforce 

The High School Seafood Butchery program emerged out of an interest from current high school students, teachers, and school leadership along the coast who expressed a desire to learn these skills. The curriculum for the pilots, Rouxbe’s “Seafood Literacy,” utilizes an online learning platform developed by world-class chef educators and former culinary school executives.

North Bend High School students working with local Dungeness Crab

The program offers:

  • Teacher-led online coursework taught through Rouxbe, an online learning platform developed by world-class chef educators and former culinary school executives.
  • Interactive workshops: Students gain practical skills through hands-on demonstrations and workshops.
  • Six in-depth units: The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from understanding sustainable seafood practices to mastering proper handling and fabrication techniques.

Eddyville K-12 School said in a social media post that “The program has been carefully crafted with input from industry professionals and existing high school students…The Oregon Coast is in desperate need of workers skilled in seafood butchery. This training will support coastal youth in building these skills; encouraging a “coast-grown” workforce that can afford to remain local by having the know-how to thrive in this growing industry.” 

Program director Maggie Michaels adds that another unique element of this program is its versatility. “Students can learn butchery skills, working on crab or fish – and turn that into a meal for a health and wellness class – and they might use those same skill sets to focus more on the science of dissection and species identification in a science class setting.” This kind of well-rounded approach equips students with practical skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

Investing in the Future Workforce: EDALC Takes the Lead

The program is now being implemented in six coastal high schools – Neah-Kah-Nie, Eddyville K-12, Siletz Valley, North Bend, Siuslaw, and Pacific – which represent 5 of our 7 coastal counties. 

The pilot program’s launch wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County (EDALC), who has provided full operations funding for all six of the pilot seafood butchery courses. 

The mission of the EDALC is to deliver economic development services to facilitate the creation, growth, and retention of Lincoln County businesses. With local seafood and food systems sustainability being a key economic driver for the entire region, they are excited to collaborate in making the High School Seafood Butchery program a reality in Lincoln County and beyond. 

OCVA’s Executive Director Marcus Hinz says, “This is a true collaboration, and EDALC are champions of the future of keeping seafood local on the coast.” He adds,  “As an organization, OCVA is proud to be taking on this work because – as a destination management organization – our beaches and our seafood represent our core value proposition for visitors. When we create the best experience for our visitors, we also are making our own communities even better places for coastal residents to live. Everyone wins.”

Eddyville students filleting locally caught Rockfish

The funding of this pilot has truly been a collaborative effort. The first year of planning work was funded by Builders Initiative, which opened the door to additional funding from EDALC for the pilot program’s launch. Their initiative and collaboration in leading this program offers promise for securing long-term program funding, and its continued positive impact on the coastal workforce.

The launch of this program also could not have been possible without the generous contributions from Dexter Russel, Pacific Seafood, Uline, Englund Marine, NoCry, and Roby’s Newport, who provided materials including filet knives, cutting boards, aprons, chest freezers and more. 

Looking Ahead: Internships and Career Opportunities

As the program unfolds, the next step will be to create internship opportunities tailored to local businesses. This will allow students to gain valuable hands-on experience in various sectors of the seafood industry, from producers and processors to restaurants, charter boats, and seafood counters. By offering paid internships ranging from 2 weeks to 2 months, businesses can provide students with the hands-on experience they need to thrive in the industry. 

We are currently seeking industry employer partners who have opportunities to place students for continued learning and mentorship. If you are interested in collaborating to craft internship opportunities tailored to your business, please email maggie@thepeoplescoast.com.

With EDALC’s full funding and the support of a dedicated network of partners, the High School Seafood Butchery Pilot Program is poised to make a significant impact in the future of our coastal food systems. This program empowers the next generation, not only with life-long skills, but also to be responsible stewards of Oregon’s exceptional coastal resources. 

You can learn more about the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County and their work here, and more about the Oregon Ocean Cluster Initiative here.