IRPT’s We Work the Waterways Introduces Students to Maritime Careers

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The maritime industry is one of Louisiana’s top economic drivers and is only continuing to grow. That’s why industry professionals are introducing students to all the opportunities a career on the water can have.

Captain Kenny Brown says he loves showing off the industry to the next generation.

“It’s right in these people’s back yards, and they don’t even know it exists,” said Brown. “You have this opportunity right in your hands, so we’re really excited to show them that.”

Hundreds of Baton Rouge area high schoolers are learning from people like Captain Kenny Brown about one of the state’s top industries, the maritime industry.

One of those students is Verneisia Kaufman. She’s a junior at Tara High School and is already thinking about her next steps after graduation.

“I want to be a truck driver,” said Kaufman. “Once I get out of high school, I want to be a truck driver and do hair.”

But after learning about different career opportunities in the maritime industry, including truck driving at places like ports, she’s reconsidering.

“I might still do that, but I can do this at the same time,” said Kaufman. “It’s just telling me to do it. Do it, girl. You get to travel while you do your job? Do it.”

Captain Jason Ledet is a pilot with the Open Waters Program. He believes educating students about the half a million jobs available working on the water is vital to keep the industry moving as it continues to grow.

“Sixty percent of the grain that feeds the world comes out of the Mississippi River, so we’re moving 14,000 vessels every single year, and we need people starting at the bottom and working their way to the top to move these ships,” said Ladet.

Brown agrees. As an inland towboat captain, he said they need more hands to help move the 500 to 600 million tons of cargo on the Mississippi River every year.

“You cannot do it, move the amount of product we do, on 18-wheelers or trains. By volume, you just can’t do it so for the economy, the jobs, they’re here,” said Brown.

Students also don’t have to wait to start a life-long career that will benefit them and the economy.

“They can go get jobs on the river straight out of high school,” said Ledet. “They don’t need college or anything like that. Get a simple TWIC card, put in an application, and you’re going to get hired, and you’re going to be making really good money.”

The maritime industry pumps more than $11 billion into the state’s economy each year.