Manager and supervisor lead training for seafood processors in Bristol Bay

Alaska Sea Grant brought its training program teaching supervisory skills to workers in the seafood processing industry to the Bristol Bay region for the first time in June. The course, developed last year in partnership with the Applied Business Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), was previously offered to seafood processors in Kodiak, Petersburg, and Sitka.

Alaska’s seafood professionals comprise the largest private manufacturing workforce in the state. At last count in 2019, Alaska’s seafood processors employed more than 27,000 workers. Many workers start in entry level and seasonal positions, and the path to leadership positions, such as processing supervisors, line leads, and managers, is not straightforward.

people smiling holding their certificates in front of building at Bristol Bay Campus

To meet these challenges, Alaska Sea Grant and UAF, with input from seafood processing leaders, developed a managerial and supervisor lead training program for seafood processors in Alaska. The training is designed to be short and efficient, and is offered at or close to the workplace so that it is accessible to supervisors working at seafood processing facilities near the start of the season.

This June, Alaska Sea Grant’s Caleb Taylor, Gabe Dunham and Tav Ammu taught the course in Naknek and Dillingham, in several small group classes. The training was offered when workers began arriving for the Bristol Bay sockeye season. Ninety workers in all completed the one-day training.

The curriculum includes the role of a working supervisor, supervisory leadership and ethics, communications, conflict resolution, decision making, managing change, supervising a diverse workforce, and motivation, training, and team building. To complement the instruction, group exercises and discussions keep participants interested and engaged throughout the day.

a group of people smiling while standing on dock with cranes in background

“Supervising in a seafood processing plant comes with its challenges. Supervisors have to understand the technical side of the job as well as the people side,” said curriculum creator Mark Young, UAF Professor of Applied Business (retired). “In such a fast-paced environment, it’s crucial to have tools to deal with everything from communication barriers to workplace conflict, to know how to motivate employees to fulfill their duties. We developed this training to provide those tools to promote a healthy workplace, cut down on unplanned downtime, maintain productivity, and retain workers throughout the season.”

Alaska Sea Grant plans to continue the program throughout the state. For more information about supervisor training for current or prospective supervisors, managers, and line leads, contact Caleb Taylor, Alaska Sea Grant’s seafood workforce development coordinator.