Fishing for Talent: An Apprenticeship For the Future of Commercial Fishing | WorkingNation
I’ve been down here 46 years. We used to be inundated with fishermen, but in the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve been rebuilding an awful lot of stocks here. It’s caused a lot of economic hardship. Now the stocks have come back, and there is a need for new commercial fishermen, but the concern here I’m hearing is: I don’t have anybody to go. I don’t have a crew. And I said God, we need to do something. We just can’t go out and get warm bodies to just say here, take them fishing. We need to start a program, and we need to do it through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are the original four-year degree. They’ve been used to train people for over 4,000 years. It’s an incredibly effective system. People will earn more faster without debt by doing apprenticeships. Rhode Island’s the Ocean State. We have a large and vibrant commercial fishing industry. The reality is though it’s an aging industry. We kept hearing from fishermen, “help us out, train people, get some new blood,” and so we created this apprenticeship program. When I got out of high school I was looking for a trade where I can start making money right away. I see an apprentice program in fishing, and I’ve never heard about that before. So I applied to it. When I got the call telling me that I was accepted, it was nothing but joy. I just knew this was gonna be the road that I was gonna live for the rest of my life. My name is Kameron Rebello and I’m a fisherman out of Rhode Island. When you’re in high school, you don’t hear about options such as this. Because of that, we’ve done a real disservice to folks who might not fit college. This particular program does a great job at explaining it to the point that someone can feel comfortable enough to get on a boat as soon as they’re done. The first part of class we usually do book work. We’ll learn about everything from the radars to the IS systems, then we usually do hands-on, like net mending or working with the fire extinguishers. Any captain’s not going to want somebody that doesn’t know what they’re doing because it’s a liability. I’ve been on a boat that dragged up a depth charge. I’ve been on a boat that sank. There is no hospital out there. There is no mechanics. You have to have people that you can trust. We were a little nervous about him wanting to be a commercial fisherman. You know it’s a dangerous industry. He came across Fred’s program. It kind of made us feel a little bit better, you know, because it seems like he’s getting all the safety training he needs. I went to a rescue of a vessel that had three guys overcome with toxic fumes. One young fellow died. It was just heart wrenching tragedy, and I said in his legacy, in his name, in his honor, we’ve got to change the culture of safety. And we have. Fishing has changed over time. Safety has changed. Just showing up in your rubber boots – it doesn’t get the current captains what they need. There’s no one person who can make this program. It happened from beginning to end. Without bringing in organizations that know what they’re doing, it wouldn’t succeed. The URI has been very interested in partnering with commercial fishing industry here in Point Judith. It’s important to make this apprenticeship program really a strong one, not just for the fishermen themselves, but for the shoreside businesses that are here in the port. The first time I went out, I was kind of expecting the worst. Once we get out there, I was loving it. I felt like I was at home. I knew right then and there I was made for this. Just to see him be successful and be happy at what he does is really important to me. Not everyone’s gonna go to college, but everybody deserves a good job. If you could give one person a job training program that is the ticket for them to a good job, it changes their life and their whole family’s life forever. My hope for my future is to become a captain. You can make a career out of fishing if you do it right. There’s programs helping me get there faster. Fishing isn’t like any other job. This is a way of life. We want to know that you are a hundred percent committed. If you give everything you have physically and you’re there every day, you’re dependable, you have a good personality, you work together – I want five of those guys. I’ll have a great boat, we’ll catch a lot of fish, and we’ll make a lot of money.