SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

The Path to the Middle Class Runs Through the Port Of NY/NJ

By Rik van Hemmen

I am not sure if I have ever expounded on my theory on the path to the middle class in the M&O blog. The theory is simple: Only maritime provides a reliable path to the middle class for those who seek it. There are very good technical and economical reasons for that assertion, which I may make the subject of another blog some time in the future. Meanwhile, find me a solid middle class anywhere in the world, and I will bet that maritime had an important role in it.

Unfortunately, in the US, we have lost our connection with that reality, and our middle class is weakening as I am writing this, but, fortunately, there are people out there who are willing to make an effort to fix the problem.

Yesterday I was fortunate to lend a helping hand in just such an effort by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The Port of New York and New Jersey is an amazing job and money generator (at least 400,000 jobs and tens of billions of dollars in wages) and does it with jobs that pay much better than the standard shore based jobs and often cannot be outsourced or robotized.

The Port Authority through the Council on Port Performance (CPP) has noticed that we have a looming workforce shortage and decided to reach out to the near port communities who, today, have very little awareness of the opportunities in maritime.

This outreach occurred in the form of the first Port Career Awareness and Job Expo on April 18, 2018. It was done in true maritime can-do fashion.  About 40 port employers and trainers set up tables in a Port Elizabeth warehouse and hundreds of highschoolers and older job seekers curious about port work attended.

But if you know nothing about ports and maritime, dipping into careers options can be incredibly overwhelming, and, therefore, the Port Authority decided to also field Expo Ambassadors. Since my daughter, Hannah, now works for the Port Authority, she checked if I wanted to join in and I cannot thank the Port enough for the wonderful day they provided me.

In my introductory pitch to the various groups of students I always reminded them that for every job ashore there is a maritime equivalent, and, if they are tough enough, they will be paid more than the shore equivalent and often the training is free or, at least, much lower cost than shore based education.

You are interested in engines? Talk to McAllister and their “explore tug operations programs”.

You are interested in construction? Talk to Weeks.

You are interested in engineering? Check out Schuyler and USMMA and talk to Hatch.

You are interested in law enforcement? Talk to the USCG, Customs and the Port Authority.

Biology? USDA.

You want to become an entrepreneur? Spend some time with the logistics companies. Big money gets made by innovating and taking a tiny little piece of a huge amount of cargo as profit.

You like customer interaction? NY Ferries.

Some kids tried to trip me up. One kid wanted to become a dancer. Easy, talk to the cruise ship companies.

Two kids did manage to turn me into somewhat of a liar. One wanted to be a child psychologist and another a pediatrician.  Yeah, I suppose maritime is a little thin on those, but I did manage to show them maritime educational paths that could get them there at very low cost.

Bottom line: I like doing public service, but if public service is as effective as this event please, please, don’t leave me out next year, and please make it even bigger, because this is so important to our industry, and to the young people in our country.

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