Assemblywoman Jenne: We need training, more jobs in maritime industry in North Country
North Country Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, says she’s working to grow employment and training opportunities that tie in with the region's connection to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
"As the North Country region continues to battle bounce back from the recession and as well as the damaging floods along the river and lake this past year, I've been exploring steps we can take to rebuild the maritime economy with infrastructure funding and education and training programs," she said.Jenne has worked with her colleagues in state government to get a financial support package for local governments, businesses and homeowners impacted by this past year's flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
She has also been working to secure additional grants for waterfront projects, including pushing to secure $250,000 in state funding for waterfront improvements in Cape Vincent.
She has also spent the past several months talking to local school and college officials about steps that can be taken in the region to provide training for employment in the maritime industry.
"I think implementing practical and common-sense programs to train our workforce is key to taking the economy of our river and lake community to the next level," Jenne said.
"We have everything we need right here, except the training many want and need to build their professional skills and reputation in maritime trades and related businesses," she said.
"By strengthening the workforce, we can bring business back to these communities that demand the quality and experience you can only get in the St. Lawrence River Valley and Great Lakes," Assemblywoman Jenne added.
She recently led a delegation of educational leaders from around the North Country on a visit to SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx.
Jenne and representatives from SUNY Canton, Jefferson Community College and Jefferson-Lewis BOCES met with SUNY Maritime administrators and toured the campus.
"It was a great visit. SUNY Maritime Provost Joseph Hoffman previously served as the interim president of SUNY Canton and knows our region well. He is a great resource as we look at steps we can take to grow interest in training for jobs in the maritime industry," she said,. noting, for example, a high percentage of river pilots on the St. Lawrence are graduates of the SUNY Maritime College.
Dr. Hoffman, who also serves as vice president for Academic Affairs at SUNY Maritime College, said he saw potential for working with local officials to develop career paths in the maritime industry in the region.
"I am very interested in continuing to engage with SUNY Canton, Jefferson Community College, BOCES and local high schools," Dr. Hoffman said at the conclusion of the meeting on the SUNY Maritime campus.
Jenne noted the region is filled with individuals with deep ties to the rivers and lakes in the North Country.
“We've got the water. We have a history of boat building. That's part of our heritage and our culture," Jenne said.
"So many people currently don't feel connected to their education. But they are on the water all the time. This is their life. We have to have training. A lot of things would really fit. This would add great value to a lot of work people have been doing in the North Country for generations," she said.
"We have spectacular natural resources, fascinating boat building heritage and a love for being out in our natural environment. We can do a better job of capitalizing on all of it," she reiterated.
"That's why I'm exploring options from online seminars and short classes for adults and students alike as well as more formalized BOCES programs and partnerships so students could earn professional licenses and associates, bachelor's and master's degrees for maritime professions that are in demand and pay well," she said.
Jenne said stepping up maritime training in the region could translate into a growth in maritime activity along the shores of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
"We shouldn't think of ourselves as a well-kept secret. We should proudly promote our heritage, skills and hospitable nature. We are a special place that is as much about showcasing our history as it is demonstrating how it has made us what we are today," she said.
"I see an opportunity to convert a skilled and well trained workforce into a resource that can attract new employment opportunities to our region. The maritime industry, like so many others, is in a period of significant changes, and we could position ourselves for the increased work that is necessary for compliance with new industry and environmental standards," according to Jenne.
"These would be jobs that would allow our young people to stay in the North Country and live and work on the rivers and lakes they so love," Jenne added.