SIU union brothers and sisters sometimes describe themselves as family, but some Seafarers are related by blood in addition to fraternity. Such is the case with the Latta family, second and third generation mariners from Alaska, who praise the SIU for helping them discover a passion for seafaring.
“I was sort of aimless here in Alaska, with no real direction in life,” said AB Eden Latta, himself the son of a mariner. “The SIU gave me direction. It was a great experience, and it got me working out on the water, which I love.”
Eden joined the union as an apprentice in 1998, attending classes at the Seafarers- affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education. He was one of the first apprentices to join the union during the Alaska local hire initiative, which is currently in its second century. His father, Rocky Latta, was a mariner, and described helping his son enter the apprentice program in a 1998 letter to U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).
“[The apprentice program] has been a real success story for my son,” Rocky said in the letter. He continued, “He has finally found something he really enjoys doing. He is confident, motivated and really feels great about himself.”
Eden was followed in his career path by his brother Jared Latta in 2003. Jared is currently working on the Pride of America in Hawaii as a QMED.
“I don’t ship out anymore, but it’s a part of my life that I value pretty highly,” Eden said. “I love talking about those times.”
And when it came time for his daughter to start her career, Eden didn’t hesitate to recommend an apprenticeship for his daughter, Phase IV Apprentice Mackenzie Latta.
Eden said, “My daughter was the same as me, sort of aimless, and I suggested she attend and enter the apprentice program. And I’m so proud of her. She’s really giving 110 percent and loves what she’s doing.”
Mackenzie echoed her father’s sentiments: “My father always thought I would be good at this. I love travelling, working with my hands, and I really wanted to learn a trade.” She decided to train and work in the engine department, and enjoyed her first at-sea work experience on board the Pride of America.
“The people at the school are great. They really want to help you succeed, and it’s a great program, especially if you come from Alaska looking for a job,” she continued, speaking about the challenge of finding a well-paying job in her home state. “Alaska is a pretty expensive state, so the paycheck is a big incentive.”
Many Alaskans have benefitted from the Paul Hall Center’s apprentice program since the beginning of the Alaska local hire initiative. With a tough local job market, a career as a mariner represents a chance to see the world, learn valuable vocational skills and become financially secure. The Alaskan local hire effort has led to well over 600 Alaskans being trained and placed in U.S.-flag maritime employment – with a special emphasis on youth, Natives, displaced fishing industry workers, and veterans.
Eden spoke fondly of his time at the school, and noted that while the courses may be challenging, “The rewards are more than worth it.”
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