WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

Building People Pipelines For The Future

Cargill, ADM/ARTCO, the Eckstein Charitable Trust, Ingram Barge Company, American Commercial Barge Line and Marquette Transportation all know where their future—and the future of waterways commerce—lies. That’s why they are all listed as supporters of the latest expansions to Chad Pregracke’s Living Lands & Waters Mississippi River Institute, which will expose more children and young people than ever to the fascination and rewards of life on our nation’s rivers and waterways.

With this expansion, LL&W joins similar efforts from other organizations that have been successfully spreading the word for years about life and work on the rivers, and that have also attracted substantial river industry support.

Exposure is just as important as education. Children need to know from an early age that the rivers and waterways exist, that people make their living on them, that it is a rewarding life and career—maybe for them, too.

Our economy is in a temporary state of labor tightness, but the causes are complex. It’s more than a numbers game. Many of our schools and educational institutions have failed to point out to young people the breadth and variety of fulfilling pathways in life. Young people are becoming wary of incurring lifetime debts from college loans, especially for degrees that may or may not lead to fulfilling employment.

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That failure is behind the crusade of Mike Rowe, who is contributing the introduction and voiceover for a video to the Mississippi River Institute’s curriculum, to acquaint young people with the “dirty jobs” that often pay more than white-collar jobs and offer more advancement opportunity. That definitely includes jobs on the waterways.

Not that it’s either/or! There are plenty of interesting and rewarding waterways jobs for the degreed as well, in ports, terminals and back offices. But those pathways have to compete for young people’s attention with the many other non-traditional or not-as-visible industries that also desperately need new workers, and where pay and sign-up bonuses are increasing.

We are confident that the lure of the rivers will continue to attract eager and talented young people of all backgrounds—as long as we have institutions like Living Lands & Waters to acquaint them with the possibilities.