$1.7M awarded to Sea Grant, American Samoa College to build resilient workforce

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (Hawai‘i Sea Grant) and American Samoa Community College received $1,748,942 for a project titled “Empowering a Resilient Workforce for American Samoa” from the Department of Commerce and NOAA. The funding is among $60 million awarded through the Climate-Ready Workforce for Coastal and Great Lakes States, Tribes, and Territories Initiative as part of NOAA’s investment in creating a Climate-Ready Nation.

American Samoa is a true climate frontline community, particularly regarding sea-level rise because American Samoa has experienced one of the highest rates of relative sea-level rise in the world, and a significant portion of its villages and infrastructure are located along thin strips of coastal land. Hawaiʻi Sea Grant and American Samoa Community College have partnered to strengthen American Samoa’s critical infrastructure by building a resilient workforce through collaboration with the American Samoa Power Authority.

Kelley Anderson Tagarino, Hawai‘i Sea Grant’s extension faculty based in American Samoa who is leading the project, noted “It is exciting to help ensure American Samoa is able to leverage their local expertise with support from IRA funding to help realize our goal of a resilient American Samoa, and I am sincerely honored to work with such a wonderful team on this project!”

This program will provide training and certifications focused on creating climate-ready positions to address the challenges posed by sea-level rise and other climate hazards. Trained individuals will be placed in vacancies within the American Samoa Power Authority, enhancing the territory’s capacity to manage and adapt to climate- related threats. The project will benefit the entire community of American Samoa, which heavily relies on the American Samoa Power Authority for essential services such as electric power, trash pickup, and drinking water, and stands vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Dozens of employees of the American Samoa Power Authority Water Division show support for National Water Awareness Month with shakas and supportive signs.
American Samoa Power Authority Water Division show support for National Water Awareness Month (Tafuna, American Samoa). Credit: Sandra Reed Sesepasara

Nine selected projects, across Alaska, American Samoa, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington received $50 million to establish programs that place people across the country into good jobs that advance climate resilience and assist employers in developing a 21st-century workforce that is climate literate, informed by climate resilience, and skilled at addressing consequent challenges. Another $10 million was provided for technical assistance to support applicants and grantees.

“Sea Grant and our partners are pleased to address these critical workforce development needs to support our coastal and Great Lakes communities across the nation,” said Jonathan Pennock, director of NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program. “Sea Grant is uniquely positioned to help meet these needs through our emphasis on regional and place-based partnerships, leveraging local expertise and resources to make a meaningful impact on coastal communities.”

This work is made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, a historic, federal government-wide investment that advances NOAA’s Climate-Ready Coasts Initiative to help American communities prepare, adapt, and build resilience to weather and climate events. As part of the Justice40 Initiative, these investments will benefit underserved communities across focus areas of climate change, training and workforce development, energy efficiency, clean water, wastewater infrastructure development, and more. Common themes amongst selected projects include clean energy, nature-based solutions, green infrastructure, water management, and diverse recruitment.