WILMINGTON – A one of a kind marine technology program could be cut. For the second time, funding for the program at Cape Fear Community College is being targeted for elimination in Governor Perdue's budget. But this time around the wording being used means the elimination of the entire program, not just the ship board training.
"The majority of our experience comes from being out here and putting what we actually learned in class to use," said Marine Technology student David Robinson.
Robinson is one of a 150 students currently getting sea training with the Marine Technology Program. Thanks to the resources available at their finger tips, Robinson said he has no doubt he will graduate and find a job.
"We essentially can go work on any boat doing some sort of job. We are trained in safety. We are trained with all the scientific equipment that use on research vessels," said Robinson.
A graduate employment survey conducted in 2009 at CFCC reports 100 percent of the students who took the survey and graduated from the Marine Technology program got a job and the average salary was $48,000. Instructors said this is training marine technicians need to do the jobs that help North Carolina thrive.
"The dredging of the rivers to make sure that it is navigable for shipping which this economy depends on. To insure our natural resources are protected like our fisheries and our oysters," said Jason Rogers, Dept. Chair of Marine Technology.
Rogers said simply put, if the state cuts funding to train and expose students to the conditions, equipment and challenges they face in the industry, they will not get hired.
One of the most unique aspects about this program is students get to spend 32 days aboard the Dan Moore, which is an ocean going research vessel. CFCC is the only institution in the state that provides that specialized type of training.
"You can do lab stuff in a lab, you can learn things in a computer lab but nothing compares to being out at sea in 10-foot-seas," said Marine Technology student Will Hollowell.
Since the program started more than 45 years ago, millions of dollars have been invested in vessels, equipment and instrumentation for the students to learn. Funds Robinson said shouldn't be cut.
"It is an irreplaceable and is something that no other program can compete with, with what we get to do an experience living on the sea," said Robinson.
Instructors said the program grows every year. Each training cruise goes out with its full complement of students and all of the classes are at capacity.
They also said they've been specializing in science, technology, engineering and math, an area the federal government is prioritizing as a type of education that shouldn't be eliminated.