Captain’s Corner-Growing Younger

Captain Diehl President, Greater Houston Port Bureau

On April 20th I attended the Maritime & Logistics Youth Expo at the beautiful San Jacinto College Maritime Campus on the north shore of the Bayport Ship Channel. It was truly impressive to see over 500 middle and high school students participating in the Expo. Equally encouraging was to see the community support as over 35 companies and organizations from the port region turned out to give the students an eye-opening experience into the skills, technologies, and broad opportunities available to them in the maritime industry.

There are several ‘realities’ posing challenges to the future of our port industry, but perhaps no challenge is more daunting than the need to recruit young men and women to replace those completing their careers. Commissioner Jack Morman, Port Houston Chairman Janiece Longoria and her fellow Port Commissioners, the Houston Pilots, San Jacinto College Chancellor, Dr. Brenda Hellyer, and industry leaders realize this and are putting their collective strengths behind enticing a younger workforce.

Recruiting Millennials, Gen-Z, and whoever comes next to the waterfront will require time and investment to convince them it is a worthy and exciting career. Having three children in this range, I can tell you that how they see life—and work—are vastly different, but I’m sure my parents said the same about me. That is why getting students to the docks and showing them the excitement is such a powerful tool. Seeing is often believing, and the Expo is an excellent opportunity for offering students a good look at the significance of our waterways. Capt. Margaret Candler, Director of Maritime Education from the Sea Star Base Galveston, captured it nicely when she commented that someone can only aspire to have a job that they know exists – so showing the students that nearly any job they can think of has a corresponding maritime position is essential for attracting the next generation of maritime professionals.

San Jacinto College Youth Day

It is inspiring to see the commitment of our port region stakeholders in developing the future maritime work force. The exhibitors gave away fun freebies and were on hand to answer questions and talk about their respective organizations. The Port Houston Incident Command Center Vehicle wowed onlookers and tours of the Port’s fireboat were crowd pleasers. But these were not the only demonstrations to capture student attention. Students learned about the Coast Guard’s buoy tenders and technical advancements in solar lighting to interest future engineers; about the Harris County Sheriff’s dive team and ways to serve in law enforcement; and about job opportunities on the water and the shore.

Another satisfying factor was to see the current collegiate students from San Jac, Texas A&M Maritime, and

TSU giving their time to volunteer during the event. It expresses their own enthusiasm and commitment to the industry as they steered exuberant teens from place to place, answered questions, and helped everyone keep on-schedule.

Major events like this do not develop and grow in a vacuum. It takes the time and investment of already-busy folks to bring it all together. I know that individuals, such as Capt. J.J. Plunkett of the Houston Pilots, Dr. Sally Janes of San Jacinto College, Gordie Keenan of Kirby Corp, Gilda Ramirez of Port Houston, and Commissioner Morman’s staff worked tirelessly bringing together companies, organizations, and industry leaders to make the 2018 Expo an exceptional education event for the region. To all the sponsors, exhibitors, and volunteers: we salute you as you work to make our workforce younger!

  • Date June 6, 2018
  • Tags 2018 May