By Jill Friedman – Even with all the gloom and doom from the offshore sector, the Workboat Show did not disappoint. I was hoping they would continue to have a job fair, since so many of us are still looking for work in the maritime sector and it was very helpful to have a number of hiring companies so conveniently located all in one space. Sadly, there was no job fair this year.
Instead, there was a large space for people to break from browsing the aisles of exhibitors. The ‘collaboration zone’ had a food court where you could sit quietly over a meal and relax or plan your attack on the exhibitors. They had an area for charging up your devices nearby and a cool gaming space where you could see what virtual reality was all about.
The collaboration zone was also where the ‘dock talks’ were held throughout the first 2 days of the show. I was especially interested in the one on “Women Mariners- Integrating Women into the Maritime Workforce”. Jeff Slesinger from Delphi Maritime led an interesting discussion about why there are still so few women working at sea, what we can do about it and why we should. I found the history lessons especially interesting.
Some of the other Dock Talks were on ‘Hiring Combat Veterans – Challenges & Opportunities’, OSV firefighting, and water taxi design. All in all, an interesting and diverse lineup. These Dock Talks were free.
Travis Mills was the Keynote Speaker. Travis is a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who was severely injured in Afghanistan. He spoke about his struggles to survive and build a new life. His story had lessons for all of us.
In addition to the free speakers, you could pay to attend all-day conference sessions: Maintenance and Repair Day, Shipyard Program, Offshore Program and Inland/Passenger Vessel Program.
I spent most of my time cruising the aisles and talking to the exhibitors (well over 1,000 of them!). There were people there who could answer any question you might have on the smallest piece of equipment to an entire boat. Shipyards, boat builders, paint manufacturers, lubricants, electronics, marine hardware, chafing gear, engines, gears, ROVs, DP systems, lighting, marine architects, and more.
All the schools were well represented: Maine Maritime, SUNY, Texas A&M, Great Lakes Maritime, California Maritime, etc. They sponsored some the best of the nightly parties (where you could really do some networking). They all seemed to be doing very well with recruitment which was a little surprising given the general atmosphere offshore.
I missed seeing some of the usual companies from previous years. The manning agencies were some of the most noticeable. C-Mar was not there, neither was CLS. I missed some of the consulting companies too. The show seemed a little subdued to me this year, but I still had a good time. It’s always great to run into so many old friends. I like seeing what’s coming out in new gear and meeting new people too.
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