A career education event introduces high school students to the local maritime industry.
Dubuque, Iowa-based RiverWorks Discovery is a river industry-supported education program whose mission is to educate communities about the commerce, culture, conservation and careers of America’s working rivers. The program, started by AEP River Operations in 2006 and gifted to the National Rivers Hall of Fame and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in 2010 (making it an official non-profit organization), recently held a free career education event for 11th and 12th graders in Convent.
Attended by 60 students and faculty from St. James Parish, as well as two sea cadets and 10 teachers from Ascension Parish, the event allowed students to explore career opportunities available to them in the maritime industry. It included tours and interactive stations at both Associated Terminals and American Commercial Barge Line’s facilities in Convent, and students met with representatives from many of RWD’s 170 sponsoring companies. Those sponsors, who are located across 19 states, support the work and mission of RWD. For example, South Point, Ohio-based McGinnis Inc. was the first in-kind co-sponsor of the program, and Cincinnati-based Cincinnati Bulk Terminals became the first financial co-sponsor of the program.
In 2009, the Port of Pittsburgh Commission and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh approached RWD asking if the organization had any materials or programs for high school students.
“At the time we did not [have any programs],” said Errin Howard, program director for RiverWorks Discovery. “This led us to pursue the development of our Energy and Our Rivers curriculum with the National Energy Education Development Project. Once the curriculum was developed, we brainstormed [with POP and WAP] for the first RWD career awareness program, which became known as Who Works the Rivers. Pittsburgh is credited as being the birth city of Who Works the Rivers in 2011, and Pittsburgh now holds the program twice per year on board the Gateway Clipper Fleet.”
Who Works the Rivers, which is now conducted in 15 cities per year, was first held in New Orleans in 2014 at the Port of New Orleans and Crescent Towing.
“At that time, we had started our RWD Week at the Aquarium of the Americas in which we invited elementary students to the aquarium,” Howard said. “We still do this program today, but this year we are looking at offering the program at the new Louisiana Children’s Museum location.”
The recent WWR event in Convent included a career fair, mini-deckhand training sessions (such as line throwing), and a tour of Associated Terminals and the American Commercial Barge Line facilities.
“RWD outlines career opportunities with workstations, towboat tours and presentations by real people who, in some cases, moved from an entry-level position to a top management position shoreside,” Howard said. “South Louisiana is known for the Mississippi River and how it connects the United States to the world. Ships, towboats, stevedores, and loading and unloading facilities provide thousands of jobs that are vital to the Louisiana economy. These are real taxpayers that not only put food on the table but provide critical tax dollars for federal, state and local governments, as well as education systems.”
According to Dawn Lopez, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Associated Terminals and Turn Services, the WWR event is important because colleagues from all different specialties in the maritime industry come together to educate students on why the river is a great place to have a future.
“Our local inland maritime colleagues have collaborated to develop educational and interactive programming that can be delivered to large groups of students and educators. The long-term goal is to bring Who Works the Rivers to additional locations in both Louisiana and across the country to educate the area youth. We are excited that the Port of South Louisiana will be hosting the program in 2020. This is a perfect community outreach opportunity for the Port to be involved with.”
Even though the WWR events are a one-day occurrence, RWD aims to build relationships with the schools and the industry that last all year long.
“RWD has resources, such as our career page at riverworksdiscovery.org/careers,” Howard said. “On our social media, we do Towboat Tuesday, where we pick a term related to the industry and explain it in a way the general public can understand; Who Works the Rivers Wednesday, where we interview someone in the industry and ask them to share their story and career path; and even National Rivers Hall of Fame Friday, where we highlight a person who is in the National Rivers Hall of Fame and share their contributions and significant impact on the rivers of America.”
In terms of new initiatives for the future, RWD continues to develop more career resources and is considering a new career focused RWD traveling exhibit.
“RWD would like to thank the 170 sponsors throughout the country that both financially and physically engage in making this a true collaborative program,” Howard said. “In times when the industry struggles to be profitable with all the difficult operating conditions, they still believe in our program and support it. Thanks to them, we will continue to provide a quality product.”
Louisiana RiverWorks Discovery Sponsors:
American Commercial Barge Line
Canal Barge Company, Inc.
Delgado Community College
Harbor Towing & Fleeting
Ingram Barge Company
MVTTC (Mississippi Valley Trade & Transport Council)
NOBRA (New Orleans Baton Rouge Pilots Association)
Port of New Orleans
Port of South Louisiana
Team Services LLC
The Seamen’s Church Institute
University of New Orleans Transportation Institute
U.S. Coast Guard
WIMOs Association (Women in Maritime Operations)
Zito Companies LLC