MMA’s CAREER SERVICES OFFICE office focuses on the external and output portions of students’ time at the Academy. The focus is on helping students gain experience in their chosen industry while they are enrolled, and on helping them find high-quality work after they graduate. Co-ops and cadet shipping are particularly reliant on partnerships with companies. As Covid-19 gained ground in the spring of 2020, most of MMA’s industry partners were forced to restrict employees to the minimum essential for operation, and students watched their summer opportunities largely evaporate.
Despite the pandemic-induced restrictions, a shortage of staff, and MMA’s campus shutdown, tireless work from home enabled the half-strength Career Services Office to safely shepherd more than 100 students through summer co-ops and cadet shipping during the summer of 2020. Under the unprecedented and extremely challenging conditions this was a wild success.
In August of 2020 the department returned to campus, joined in the office for the first time by new director Bryce Potter ’07. Plans were made for the fall and quickly changed as conditions fluctuated. There were moments of elation, such as realizing that the Class of 2020 had done extremely well finding work in very challenging conditions with little support. With 71% of graduates responding, the job placement rate was 97%. This demonstrated the resilience of MMA’s graduates, the strength of the connections made by students during their cadet shipping and co-op experiences, and the efforts of faculty and staff to help graduates make connections in this most challenging of graduation years. There were also moments of disappointment, most poignantly the cancellation of MMA’s on-campus Fall Career Fair, an annual highlight. An extensive schedule of virtual company visits replaced the Fair but did not make up for the loss of one of the most anticipated annual events of the past 20 years. The fair was re-scheduled as a virtual event in January, with mixed results.
As the 2021 Spring Term arrived, the Career Services team found themselves back on their phones trying to set up co-ops and cadet shipping opportunities, but there was very little interest from industry. Everyone was waiting to see what would happen as the year progressed. Many of MMA’s usual industry partners declined to take students at all, which forced the Academy to seek out new companies and make new connections. In a normal year, most, if not all, students would know where they were headed well before the end of the spring term. When the term drew to a close, only a tiny fraction of students had summer destinations.
The Career Services Office set an ambitious goal for the summer of 2021: help every student who needed it complete their co-op or cadet shipping. Additionally, the summer training cruises aboard T/S State of Maine were planned to permit cadets who were behind schedule due to Covid-19 to both cadet ship and cruise in the same summer, which had never been attempted before. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, 30 juniors and 54 sophomores were able to both cadet ship and complete a training cruise during the summer of 2021. The herculean effort required from everyone involved makes it unlikely that this will be attempted again, but for those 84 cadets, it was a huge success.
The fog surrounding summer plans was hard on students. They did an amazing job of rolling with the circumstances and making the best of difficult, demanding, and uncertain schedules. The summer of 2021 stretched the limits of students, faculty, and staff alike.
Chief among many considerations was ensuring that no student’s graduation would be excessively delayed. It was unavoidable that many students across all classes would walk across the graduation stage with one co-op or training cruise left to complete, but some juniors and seniors risked delaying their graduation by an entire year if they were unable to co-op or cadet ship for a second summer in a row. One of the greatest successes of Summer 2021 semester was that every eligible junior and senior was able to complete their needed industry experience.
The Career Services team worked hard to help as many students as possible complete their requirements. At the end of the Summer 2021 semester, 270 of 314 eligible students, across all majors, were able to successfully co-op or cadet ship. In a normal year, Career Services nearly always succeeds in finding a place in industry for every eligible student. In this year of recovery from the mostly-lost summer of 2020, while still dealing with all of the hardships and complications of Covid-19, sending 270 of 314 eligible students out to work in industry was better than anyone had dared to hope.
There is much more work still to be done to get all students back on track. Summer of 2021 saw the most deck cadets ever sent out cadet shipping in one year (48) and the total number of students completing cadet shipping or co-ops across all majors (270) was the 10th highest in MMA history. With nearly 400 students expected to need summer industry experiences, summer of 2022 is poised to see the largest contingent of co-op and cadet shipping students in the history of the Academy.
If you own or work for a company who might be interested in offering a co-op or cadet shipping billet, hiring graduates, or attending MMA’s Career Fair, please contact the Career Services Office at 207-326-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.█
Photos: Tate Yoder, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries
Of students who were the top priority to put out (junior and senior cadets, CO423, LO400, CO400, CO 300, and CO 301), 138 of 138 eligible students went out.
Cadet Shipping Placement
LO 400 – 23 of 25 students, with two assigned alternate equivalent projects by IBL faculty (100%)
Shoreside Co-ops Overall