Santa Monica College and AltaSea Collaborate to Catalyze Workforce Development in the Blue Economy

Funding from Builders Initiative and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla Enable Innovative Program

LOS ANGELES--()--The health of our planet and the future economy will both rely on the resiliency of our oceans. To meet this urgency, Santa Monica College (SMC) students will have the opportunity to explore aquaculture and work with some of the leading businesses and scientists in the field. These groundbreaking collaborations will shepherd in a new era of workforce development in the blue economy.

A multi-year grant from Builders Initiative and community project funding from U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla will enable SMC to fund curriculum development and provide faculty support for its innovative new Aquaculture Certificate program. The new career pathway, designed to serve the needs of the growing aquaculture industry, will include a series of courses and material covering Marine Biology; Phycology; Seawater Chemistry; Aquaculture; Hatchery Techniques; Living System Design; and an internship.

“I am proud to have secured funding that will give LA students STEM learning experiences in the emerging Blue Economy – a vital and growing sector of California’s 21st century economy,” Senator Alex Padilla said in an announcement earlier this year. “This program will provide students in underserved communities a pathway to good-paying jobs that tackle climate change and our most pressing challenges.”

As part of the program, SMC is partnering with AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, a sprawling 35-acre non-profit center devoted to accelerating scientific collaboration and advancing the blue economy through business innovation and job creation. Drawing equitable pathways for workforce training and career placement, the partnership will encourage students to work alongside the world’s finest marine scientists as they conduct breakthrough research and discover solutions in areas such as energy supply, climate change, and global food security.

“According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) Institute of Applied Economics, conservative estimates indicate that the value of the blue economy will double over the next decade, with a projected global value of $3 trillion by 2030,” said SMC Superintendent/President Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D. “That is a staggering number, and we want to position our students for the first opportunities that exist in one of the world’s fastest growing business sectors.”

As the industry grows, it will need trained workers with the specific skills and knowledge to hit the ground running. This expertise will allow the industry to rapidly evolve and serve many needs such as providing healthy, locally-sourced protein; restoring habitats; sequestering carbon, and providing raw inputs for many culinary, industrial, and pharmaceutical products.

“To save our oceans and shift to a more sustainable global food system, the world needs a rising tide of curiosity, ingenuity, and stewardship, and the classroom is where this all begins. We’re thrilled to see how the students of Santa Monica College answer this call,” says Jelani Odlum, Senior Associate Program Officer at Builders Initiative. “We know that the next generation of ocean advocates, business leaders, and experts will rise out of interdisciplinary efforts like this, in spaces where students aren’t just educated but activated.”

This new relationship between SMC and AltaSea will create a myriad of benefits not only for students, but for businesses rapidly expanding in the blue economy.

All students will be placed in an internship, with a goal to ultimately connect them with a job in their field of study. Meanwhile, blue economy companies will benefit from having a direct pipeline to a well-trained workforce.

The long-term vision of the program is to create post-secondary certificate and degree programs that span blue economy industries and fields of study. In turn, we believe this will scale in-demand programs across the L.A. region in conjunction with the consortium of community colleges in Los Angeles County.

“Wayne Gretzky’s adage that 'you don’t go to where the puck is, but where the puck will be’ is what California community colleges do every day. We engage and collaborate with employers and are informed by data to determine the trends that will define our future regional economies,” added Sandra Sanchez, Vice Chancellor, California Community College Chancellor’s Office. “This collaboration started as a good idea, was incubated through the state’s Strong Workforce funding, and is poised to be scaled across the region and be a model for the entire state.”

The recently released LAEDC-led Center for a Competitive Workforce (CCW) “Ocean Economy 101” report states: “To fully realize the value of the ocean economy, leaders across Los Angeles must not only further support the development of skills driven curriculum that sustains industry growth across the higher education institutions but work to structure the necessary regional coordination that incubates entrepreneurs, research and development, and business formation in this sector.” The report can be found here.

“Southern California would emerge as a world leader in the blue economy,” Jeffery said, “and we intend to make sure our students are ready to help innovative businesses do just that.”

About Builders Initiative

Builders Initiative is the philanthropic team of Builders Vision, an impact platform dedicated to supporting people and organizations building a more humane and healthy planet. Builders Initiative is a strategic philanthropy that includes grantmaking and impact investing.

For more information on Builders Initiative, please visit

About Santa Monica College

Santa Monica College is a California Community College accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). For 31 consecutive years, SMC has been California’s leading transfer college to UCLA, UC Berkeley, and other University of California campuses. The college also tops in transfers to the University of Southern California and Loyola Marymount University and is the top feeder west of the Mississippi to the Ivy League Columbia University. More than 110 career training degrees and certificates at SMC—in fields ranging from the traditional (Accounting, Early Childhood Education, Nursing) to the emerging (Sustainable Technologies, Technical Theatre, and a baccalaureate degree in Interaction Design)—offer professional preparation for students interested in directly entering the job market, transferring to a four-year school, or upgrading specific skills. SMC provides news and cultural enrichment through its NPR radio station KCRW (89.9 FM), the Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center, and lifelong learning through distinctive programs such as its Emeritus Program for older adults.

For more information on Santa Monica College, please visit

About AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles is dedicated to accelerating scientific collaboration, advancing an emerging blue economy through business innovation and job creation, and inspiring the next generation, all for a more sustainable, just, and equitable world.

For more information on AltaSea, please visit:


Jacob Scott


Jacob Scott