As part of Crowley's overall commitment to recruiting, training and retaining a talented workforce, the company last year began a port engineer's development program to provide additional career growth to individuals choosing to make their career in the maritime industry.
Crowley is confident that the program will address the shortage and need for specialized skills in port engineering and shoreside management and that it will provide additional talent to aid the company in its future growth plans.
The development program is designed to mentor marine engineers interested in coming shoreside to pursue a career as a port engineer. Program participants get real-life training and work alongside seasoned port engineers all in an effort to help each person reach their goals.
Ed Schlueter, Crowley's vice-president of vessel management services, calls the program a success. Schlueter said candidates should have a strong "desire to be a port engineer."
There are currently three employees in the program: Coulston Van Gundy, Carly Moore and Williams; and Schlueter said Crowley is always looking more candidates.
"This best description for this type of real-world training is mentoring," Schlueter said. "We're teaching them how to capitalize on the skills they have."
For Troy Williams, 46, the mentoring at Crowley began long before he was accepted into the company's port engineer training program.
Williams began his career with Crowley more than 14 years ago on a tug boat working in a variety of roles. He worked in the galley as a steward assistant; he painted and made repairs as a deck utility worker in the engineering department; and later he moved on to more technical work, like welding and electrical repairs, as a qualified member of the engineering department.
He was a tug boat chief engineer when he was first introduced - in what he calls "water-cooler talk" - to the new port engineers training program.
Van Gundy, 23, graduated from California Maritime Academy in April 2006 with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in marine engineering. The following month, the Nebraska native was on board at Crowley. He spent a little more than a year sailing when he was approached by supervisors about the program. In August 2007, he applied.
"I initially told myself that I didn't want to come shore-side until I had more experience but this opportunity came up and it was too good to pass up," Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy is stationed in Seattle. He said that on a typical work day he does anything from reviewing paperwork for boat procedures, preparing and reviewing work orders and operational procedures on tugs and performing mechanical inspections of equipment, among other tasks, under the close direction of seasoned engineers.
Van Gundy said he believes his willingness to adapt to many situations and his communication skills helped him enter the program.
"I'd like to think that it was my willingness to be able to adapt to many situations… and be able to relate to people in all age groups that helped me get in the program," Van Gundy said, adding he doesn't come from a marine background, in terms of having other family members involved in the marine or transportation business.
Carly Moore, 23, began her career at Crowley in November 2006. A graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Moore was assigned to Crowley's liner services group and worked on a tug boat.
"It's just interesting and very challenging, being young and not having a family. It's exciting to go around the world and see different ports," Moore said. "And you can't beat the sunsets."
It was also challenging in that she was a female in a male-dominated career. Moore said she was able to overcome stereotypes.
"You just have to be very open-minded that you have old sailors and show them you know what to do. You may not be able to lift the same amount of gear as them and need help, but it doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing," she said.
In April 2007, she applied for the Port Engineer's program to get her name out there and let people in the company know she was interested in advancing her career in the company. She never expected to be chosen on the first go-around.
"The opportunity came up and I wasn't going to let it go," she said.
The California native said she is getting well-rounded training from a team of engineers and other Crowley executives. She began the program on June 1. She is a member of the vessel management team and is currently stationed in Jacksonville.
"As part of the program, I get to see pretty much all that Crowley does. I got to see that we all have the same mission and one value," Moore said.
Williams' excitement about the program is contagious. He began the program in June 2007.
"One of the greatest assets at Crowley is the in-house training. The mentoring here is awesome," said Williams, referring to all the people who have mentored him throughout his 14-year career. He describes the program as an extension to the training he has received through the years.
Williams, who is stationed in Pascagoula, Miss., said the program also gives him the opportunity to see how another side of the company works.
"The exposure seeing the other side of how the company operates is awesome. At first, I was scared because I didn't know what to expect. But as I asked about the program I learned I would have support. I would have mentoring," Williams said.
Williams' assignment in Pascagoula involves taking part in a vessel construction project.
"It's something you would see on the Discovery Channel… It's exciting. It's all exciting stuff. It's a very fulfilling day," Williams said.
Schlueter said Crowley is always looking for talented and driven individuals to join its ranks through this program and other opportunities throughout the company. Positions routinely have in-house training programs aimed at nurturing each employee's individual talents and helping them develop new skills.
"Like everybody else here, I have a completely open door policy, so if anyone wants to learn more about the program they can talk to me or anyone else in the engineering department," Schlueter said. "We all would welcome their phone calls. We're open to answering questions."