Many children, especially from economically disadvantaged areas, have a difficult time transitioning from high school to college and/or the workforce.According to the National Youth Employment Coalition report for December 2012, youth aged 16-19 had an unemployment rate of 23.6%, while young adults aged 20-24 were unemployed at a rate of 13.7%. The total population averaged a 7.9% unemployment rate for the same period. By December 2014, total unemployment rate fell to 5.6%, meaning that if teens and young adults were lagging at the same rate as in 2012, their unemployment rate would have improved to just 16.7%. The marine industries, though, offer youth better job prospects. Even in the economic downturn, the marine industries were still adding jobs. The boating industry alone is nearly twice as large as the citrus industry. According to a recent studyby the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, marine-related jobs have an annual direct economic impact of $2.1 billion in the county, creating $800 million in personal income, $80 million in marina and boatyard business revenue and over 20,000 jobs. Registered boaters in Palm Beach County number more than 40,000, with many other boaters traveling to Florida on a seasonal basis. According to the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, approximately 1,100 summer camps, daycare facilities and afterschool programs are available in the county. Almost all of those facilities take a trip to a water park, pool, beach or waterfront destinations like Peanut Island. The county is also home to over 25 public pools and water parks, 25 major hotels with a pool, 45 miles of Atlantic shoreline and 500,000 acres of lakes. When the FFA first started Riviera Beach’s Community Boating Program in 2011, we hired several of our best students. But we soon discovered that they did not have the qualifications or experience needed to staff our waterfront activities, and other area camps were having similar problems. Lifeguard certifications cost $235 to $500, making it difficult for many youth, no matter how motivated, to afford the training they need to fill valued job openings. Because our apprenticeship initiative provides affordable training, we can now help these youth develop the skills and make the connections needed to fill those jobs.
Social and Emotional Skills
Today’s youth need help with their social, emotional and behavioral skills, and groups likethe Palm Beach County Mentoring Center Network could bolster their programs with recreational programs that enhance interpersonal skills.According to The Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach County’s overall suspension rate was just over 9% in the 2010-2011 school year. United Way has reported that just one hour a week of mentoring can help a child become 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 37% less likely to skip a class, 46% less likely to start using drugs, 27% less likely to start drinking and 33% less likely to hit someone. Our program empowers high school students with mentoring and educational programs at least one hour a week for almost the entire school year. Palm Beach County youth need community service, mentoring, science and marine biology experiential projects to generate enthusiasm and improve their chances for academic success.United Way reported thatin 2012, 77% of high school seniors graduated, down from 81% in 2010. The rates were lower for minority students: 67% for African American and 75% for Hispanic students.
According to United Way’s Hunger Relief Plan of 2017, Palm Beach County has more than 200,000 residents, 64,000 of whom are children who do not have enough food to eat. Riviera Beach has the highest unemployment rate in Palm Beach County, at 3.6%, compared to a low of 2.3% in Jupiter. Riviera Beach has a population of 33,683, and only 14,861 are employed. A June 2016 Sun Sentinel article reported that the free and reduced lunch program grew over the previous 18 months by 7%, to 114,000 students. The median household income in Riviera Beach is $41,884, and its poverty rate is 23.6%, nearly double Palm Beach County’s 12.5% rate. Because Riviera Beach is our home base, most of our students and families served are from this community. However, we have taught in over 150 low-income sites and Title I schools across Palm Beach County, and our job training facility and our reputation in the county also draw deserving students from all over the area.
Approach and Design
Our curriculum was developed to adhere to all 14 basic tenants from the United Way Key Strategies. It was created using the Florida Sunshine Standards and best practices established by the Future Fisherman Foundation and the Botvin life skills model, which has been proven through evidence-based research to dramatically reduce drug and alcohol use and other risky behaviors in youth. The FFA’s high school-level course – taught in two stages, Angling for a Healthy Future and Charting a Course in the Marine Industries– is by far the most comprehensive marine program in the area and is specifically designed to weave important life lessons into a fun and innovative youth-centered fishing education program. The course are taught in safe environments, in collaboration with Title I high schools, YECs and with the assistance of local business partners. Students in each location are responsible for recruiting an average of 20 students, helping provide graduation coaches and youthcounselors and helping establish fishing club. The fishing clubs are youth-centered, allowing teens to take leadership roles and have a voice in the decision-making process to best ensure activities will be relevant and interesting.
Scope of Work
Students start with our basic program, Angling for a Healthy Future,taught in 20 one-hour sessions during the summer and school year at the high schools and middle schools. This entry-level course provides students with opportunities to learn – about fishing, the environment and themselves – and practice life-skill strategies that lead to academic and workplace success. Fishing trips, safety drills and other outdoor activities also offer fun, real-world applications of in-class lessons. Students learn basic fishing skills, boating safety, fishing regulations, marine biology, lab experiments, fish dissection and environmental awareness, with sessions supplemented by life-skills lessons designed to build self-confidence, responsible interaction and goal-setting, problem-solving, financial literacy and other strategies.
In Charting a Course in the Marine Industries, advanced high school students receive extensive vocational fishing and marine education, as well as post-secondary preparation and support designed to prepare them for the workforce or college. The first 10 sessions incorporate important life-skills activities designed by Botvin’s LifeSkills Training Transition (LST). LST is an interactive, evidence-based program designed to promote positive health and personal development, teaching students competency in the skills that are not only key to success but are also proven to reduce and prevent substance use and violence. These students learn how to mentor younger students, teach our program, navigate a vessel, chart an open-water course, fish commercially, compete in fishing tournaments, design and build rods, repair reels and vessels, build lures and become Red Cross-certified lifeguards. They learn – from FFA staff, volunteers, business partners and young adult mentors recruited from the community – how the marine industries relate to almost all facets of life. They are then placed in our pre-apprentice program in Riviera Beach in the last section of Charting a Course. These students also serve as FFA camp counselors, and they work with our community partners through our on-the-job training component.
Many of these students are able to see the fruits of their labor. Qualified students can receive their boating safety, lifeguarding and CPR certifications after passing certain tests. They also can begin working toward their U.S. Coast Guard captain’s certificate by logging their boating hours.
The last section of Charting a Courseprepares students for the workforce. FFA instructors and local business professionals assist students in exploring employment opportunities identified through newspapers, classified ads, the Internet and other resources. Students learn professional etiquette, proper attire and interviewing techniques for successful employment. Through the LST curriculum, they learn how to manage stress, time and money. Our instructors can also help with homework and tutoring.
Community Outreach Program
Our long-term goal has long been to create a job-training and pre-apprentice program in Riviera Beach. On November 30, 2018, we signed a lease for the old workshop at the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy, 251 W. 11thStreet, Building 800, in Riviera Beach. We are looking to expand our current job training program to include, for the first time, our students in Riviera Beach. We have started with community revitalization by creating a community art project that beautifies the exterior of our building with 3-D marine art and sculptures of coral and local fish. The surrounding yard is all dirt and weeds. To improve both the look of the area and have a local impact, we will build a community garden with raised plant beds, aquaponics and hydroponics. Our community aquaponics garden will be the first such community garden in the area and will allow us to supply fresh fruits, vegetables and fish to local residents. We will use our local students to complete this STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) project. In addition to revitalizing our property, our program also qualifies as a quality program. Our partners at Prime Time Palm Beach County define quality programs as those that “provide a supportive and engaging environment for youth.” Specifically, Prime Time explains: “Program quality is assessed each year using the Palm Beach County Program Quality Assessment (PBC-PQA). Prime Time’s work is rooted in a wide body of research demonstrating that quality OST programs lead to substantial academic, social, and emotional benefits for youth.”
Pre-Apprentice and Job Training
In order to enter our pre-apprentice program, students must complete our 20-session Charting a Course in the Marine Industries, which is now taught in our Riviera Beach shop, where they receive hands-on training starting with shop and workplace safety. Students receive training in carpentry and wood-tools, boat handling and trailering, sanding, polishing and detailing of a hull. They learn about composites, boat maintenance, terminology and basic hand tools, and about the safety equipment required for a vessel. To help students grow creatively, the shop is also open for students who want to work on a school or science fair project.
Once training is completed, on-the-job-training placement will begin. All students will be encouraged to reflect on their positive experiences and strengths to build an effective resume, then submit it to prospective employers. At each stage of training and on field trips, parents are informed about the activities and their children’s progress. Wespend at least an hour a week with our students. When we are out fishing, we spend between three to six hours in informal mentoring sessions.