Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

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July 1, 2017

Last month the new administration revealed plans for a renewed emphasis on workforce development, announcing an initiative to expand apprenticeship programs into nontraditional industries in an effort to fill a record level of open jobs and draw back millions of Americans who have left the workforce.

The maritime industry is one that continues to benefit from apprenticeship programs, and most training programs include an at-sea apprenticeship.

In a press conference at the White House, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta gave an overview of the President’s plans and took some questions from the press.

Acosta noted that there are currently 6 million job openings in the United States – the highest number of job vacancies ever, including 360,000 job vacancies in manufacturing and 200,000 job vacancies in construction. He also pointed out that 6.9 million able-bodied Americans are not currently in the workforce.

“Apprenticeships teach skills needed to bridge this skills gap,” he said, and noted that, because apprentices earn while they learn, they largely avoid the substantial student debt that can result from a typical 4-year school.

“The most obvious benefit of apprenticeships is a good job,” Secretary Acosta noted, saying that nine out of ten individuals who complete apprenticeship programs are employed upon completion of the programs. “Both the starting salary and the employment rate are higher than that of traditional college graduates, he said.”

One of the reporters in the White House pool, whose name we have been unable to discover, asked about the validity of the program, saying that an apprenticeship “amounts to nothing more than indentured servitude.”

The secretary corrected the reporter. “If you look at Department of Labor data, the average starting salary for an apprentice is $60,000 a year. And that’s higher than a college graduate,” Acosta said. “I was out in Michigan at the port facility and I met with some of the apprentices at the port facility, and they love it. They are excited about it. And they are being paid a very, very good wage.”

US Department of Labor (DOL) statistics confirm the secretary’s claim. A water transportation worker’s median salary is around $55,000, and the median salaries of captains, mates, pilots and engineers are between $70,000 and $73,000.

More importantly, employment in the maritime industry is projected to grow by 9 percent over the next 10 years, while the national average is 7 percent, and other transportation-related jobs will only grow by 5 percent.

Contrast this with the profession of the aforementioned reporter who compared apprenticeship to indentured servitude. The same DOL statistics show median salary for reporters and correspondents as less than $39,000, and while jobs nationally are expected to grow, that reporter can expect to see his sector decline by 9 percent.

The DOL says, “Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts are expected to face strong competition for jobs…” Ironically, DOL finds those with experience in the field – experience often gained through internships – should have the best job prospects.

We look forward to seeing a strong apprenticeship drive in the US, and hope the Secretary’s comments helped the White House pool reporter see the value of apprenticeships. With his industry declining by 9 percent, perhaps he should consider a career in the maritime industry.

Chris can be reached at


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