The maritime industry’s need for qualified employees is approaching a crisis, and it is only predicted
to worsen in the near future. This has caused industry personnel to look at alternative ways of
attracting and grooming potential employees for these lucrative and rewarding careers. Couple that
with the current state of post-Katrina schools in New Orleans and you have all the makings of an
idea whose coming is long past due.
Maritime industry personnel, educators, and government officials have banded together under the
leadership of the United Way’s School to Career program to explore the possibility of forming a New
Orleans Maritime Charter High School.
The overwhelming consensus of attendees at the first
meeting held on the topic, which was held on February 1, at Kingsley House, was that this is
something that must be done, and now is the time. The meeting was hosted by Sue Burge of the
United Way School to Career program, and was the brainchild of Ms. Burge and Kevin Gilheany, a
local maritime industry consultant. Burge and Gilheany first met in August of 2006 at a French
Quarter Town Hall meeting where Burge was discussing her recent involvement in the new Priestly
School of Construction and Architecture. Both agreed that the time was right for a maritime vo-tech
high school in New Orleans.
The meeting was attended by school principals, school district officials, university personnel, marine
vessel owners and operators, maritime attorneys, maritime union officials, mariner association
representatives as well as representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime
Administration. All participants in the initial meeting were overwhelmingly in support of the idea
and pledged their continuing support of the project. Many great ideas were brought to the table;
some owners have already volunteered their commercial vessels as training platforms for the school.
A steering committee is being formed and a second meeting will be held for a wider audience in the
near future in order to solicit more ideas from all interested parties. Some schools have already
committed to forming maritime academies which will serve as a stepping stone to a full maritime
charter high school.
These types of programs have been very successful in other parts of the country where interested
parties have formed a maritime consortium made up of seafarers’ unions, industry, training
providers, government, and local school boards. One maritime high school in Florida has had a
successful Coast Guard JROTC program for many years. In the New Orleans area, a program such
as this would help the industry by providing a regular pool
of qualified candidates who are likely to
become dedicated professionals, looking at making a career of the maritime industry. The students
will benefit by being trained while in high school for a great, well paying career, which they may not
have been exposed to otherwise.
For more information contact: Sue Burge, United Way School to Career Program at (504) 827-
6829, [email protected]
; or Kevin Gilheany, Maritime Compliance International, LLC at
(504) 319-3229, [email protected]