Students learn of job opportunities on the river

Photo by Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com A group of Owensboro Innovation Academy students listen Thursday as Valerie Coffelt, far left, talks to them about job opportunities with Marquette Transportation Company. The students were among 160 from six area high schools who participated in the Owensboro Museum of Science and History’s Who Works the Rivers career fair.

The Owensboro riverfront is an important piece of the region's economy, which is why Errin Howard, with RiverWorks Discovery, helped bring a river jobs career day Thursday to the Owensboro Museum of Science and History for area students.

About 160 students from Daviess County, Apollo, Owensboro, Owensboro Innovation, Hancock and Heritage Park high schools visited the museum in the morning to meet with several river-oriented businesses about potential career opportunities. Participating businesses were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seaman's Church Institute, Boatside Deliveries, Yager Marine, Marquette Transportation Company, RWRA, Ingram Barge Company, Owensboro Riverport Authority, Traylor Brothers, Foertsch Group, Evansville Propeller Club and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Howard, the RiverWorks Discovery program director, said that many young people are not aware that they can have river-related, good-paying careers.

"There are opportunities from right out of high school with on the job training provided," she said. "There's a realm of positions and career-related possibilities in this industry, and for hard-working individuals, the opportunity to climb the ladder is endless."

RiverWorks Discovery has been partnered with the OMSH since 2012. RiverWorks was founded by the barge company AEP River Operations in 2004 and, after exponential growth, was gifted to the National River Center and Hall of Fame at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa in 2010. It partners with 170 companies in 15 different cities across the U.S.

Travis McBrayer, Heritage Park High School math teacher, had a group of about 20 students with him visiting the varying booths. Many of his students were showing interest in what the presenters had to say and were asking meaningful questions.

It's important for students to see careers that don't necessarily require college degrees, he said.

"There's a lot of opportunities here that they have never been exposed to, and it's just great that they can finally hear somebody talk about them," he said. "And they are good jobs, too."

When thinking about jobs relating to rivers, McBrayer said it's not uncommon to just think of the engineers or some of the jobs requiring college degrees.

"You don't think about the forklift drivers and some of the other positions available that are required to make the industry move forward," he said.

Jakobe Carlisle, 18, said he was unaware of the jobs most of the presenters were talking about. The Owensboro High School senior said he is still undecided on what he wants to do after graduation and the event was helpful.

"It gets me thinking about what I should do after I get out of high school," he said. "There are so many opportunities for someone my age right out of high school to start working and making good money."

After visiting with the presenters at the OMSH, students also had the chance to tour the Riverport Authority and Yager Materials, where they also saw a safety demonstration about the importance of protective gear while on the job.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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