The workboat industry is a tough place in which to do business. Yes, it can be rewarding — financially and in other ways — but factors such as weather, government regulations and market fluctuations can torpedo even the most prudent of business owners. And then there are those who work for you.
Whether times are good or bad, maritime workers are a constant source of concern. Do you have enough of them? You have your core workers who are “like family,” but you will need more if you’re awarded the contract you are trying to land. How easy will it be to get the extra workers you need? How expensive will it be to train them? How do you keep them? Maybe you’re adding another boat to the fleet and need an extra crew. What will that involve?
Answers to these questions can be found at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans on Thursday, Dec. 3. That’s when WorkBoat, along with the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), is holding a Maritime Workforce Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the final day of the show at the Earnest N. Morial Convention Center.
Jennifer Impastato, industry coordinator for the LWC, said Louisiana companies can learn about a litany of options available to them at the fair including help with recruitment, on-the-job training, customized training options and a whole lot more. All at no cost to the employers.
So is the fair for Louisiana companies only? “All the services we will cover at the fair are available in every state,” said Impastato. “The money used for these programs come from federal grants.”
Impastato will be part of a conference track entitled “Building a Better WorkForce. “There are a number of ways. That’s what we are going to be talking about,” she said. “Young people have a misconception about this industry. We’re going to be talking about that.”
Also on the conference docket is an address by Capt. Jeff Slesinger, a 40-year maritime veteran and founder of Delphi Maritime in Seattle. He’ll being looking at the next generation of mariners: millennials.
“The millennials are very connected to technology. It’s what gives them confidence,” said Slesinger. “They are going to demand technology, and they are going to find ways to use that technology to make the companies they work for better, finding ways to increase safety, for example.”
Millennials as a group have little patience when they want something. Everything has to be instantaneous. “But they have to learn, and they are starting to grasp this, that you can’t put time in on a simulator and think you’re ready to take the sticks,” Slesinger said. “Simulators are great learning tools, but you can’t simulate experience.”
There will also be a conference track devoted to hiring veterans.
As for mariners themselves, “we have more than 20 companies taking part in the fair, so far,” said Impastato, “and we still have a couple of weeks left for more companies to register.”