It’s no secret that the maritime industry is challenged when it comes to attracting future workers. We have seen the pool of qualified young people who are interested in maritime careers slowly shrink. For those of us who hire seasonal employees aboard our passenger vessels, the problem is particularly acute.
We talk about this growing problem at conventions, conferences and other industry events, and everyone agrees that something must be done to stem this negative trend. Many companies have launched programs to communicate with high school students and some have even established their own schools to train future workers. But the problem still looms, and I am concerned that we will continue to fall behind other industries in the race to attract workers if we don’t act soon.
Along these lines, I am very encouraged by an exciting and imaginative maritime education program in Baltimore that is making real progress. An important pursuit of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Maritime Industries Academy (MIA) is a Baltimore high school that offers students — many who come from challenged backgrounds and neighborhoods — an education with a maritime focus. While Baltimore is a major port city, before coming to MIA many students had no understanding or appreciation of the many employment options available to them in the maritime industry. Students take part in field trips and career fairs sponsored by a variety of dedicated maritime industry companies and professionals and enthusiasm is growing among both students and faculty.
The MIA board of directors and foundation is made up of business leaders and maritime industry executives who are committed to developing an educational foundation that supports students in need, establishes a superior educational environment and exposes students to the maritime industry. MIA is developing a comprehensive maritime curriculum that will achieve these goals.
As we continue to wrestle with how to find future workers, maybe we should take a lesson from MIA and work to develop maritime-related educational programs in our local schools. It seems to me that this would be a good place to begin making real progress.