Thunder Bay

Seafarers face worker shortage, Great Lakes will be affected

The hours are long, the work is hard, but the money is really good.

Union looking to hire 300 new workers for coming season

Paul MacDonald coordinates training programs for the Seafarers Training Institute. He says the group is looking to hire 300 new workers for the next season. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The hours are long, the work is hard, but the money is really good.

It's the compensation that Paul MacDonald said he hopes will attract some young people to apply for a job as a seafarer. MacDonald coordinates training programs for the Seafarers Training Institute, a group that works with the three major shipping companies running on the Great Lakes, as well as along Canada's three coasts.

"You can start right out of high school, you can make quite a bit of money right out of high school, and you don't need to be qualified," said MacDonald.

He said the institute, which trains unqualified people, gives them the skills to become a deckhand, work in the engine room or in the galley. The group predicts it will need at least 300 new workers in 2018.

"So, the demand is quite high," he said. "Companies are calling us looking for replacements on a daily basis."

"The age out there is well past the baby-boomer age, therefore they're retiring, and they're retiring at a quick pace," MacDonald continued. "So, we need to replace them as soon as we can."

The pay is good, he said, with a starting salary of $60,000 and the top of the pay scale being over $100,000.

"It's a good way to get ahead in life," he said. "When you graduate, you're guaranteed your first job through our unlicensed apprenticeship program, and then the member would become a union member. They can work as much or as little as they want, it's up to them."

The institute has held job fairs in various communities in Newfoundland, Vancouver and Thunder Bay.

MacDonald said the hope would be to receive 50 applications from interested people in Thunder Bay. Those who missed the open house can apply online at

About the Author

Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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