Y.E.S. participants adjusting to positions at Georgia Ports


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Nearly six months after Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch unveiled the Y.E.S. (Youth learning Equipment and Safety) Program, the first hires in the workforce initiative are on their way to becoming part of GPA’s 1,300-person strong team of trained logistics professionals.

Kyren Gibbs, a 2018 Groves High School graduate, operates a fork lift at the Port of Savannah.

 “GPA is turning its eyes to a future generation,” Lynch said. “We’re going to mold these young people into the best operators, the best leaders, and secure our future.”

Several recent high school graduates were selected as the work-based learning opportunity’s inaugural class. The trainees have been rotating as equipment and warehouse operators at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.

The program provides an alternative for graduating high school seniors ready to start a career and not on a traditional four-year college track. As much of the current work force comes closer to retirement, new, skilled workers are needed to ensure GPA stays ahead of future growth.

“We need to train and develop career-ready individuals because GPA needs more people to join our world-class workforce,” said Lise Altman, Senior Director of Human Resources.

The current goal is to hire another eight students from local public and private schools, predicated on GPA’s growth. Those interested in taking part should contact their school administrators for more information. School administrators will be accepting resumes through March 31, 2019. 

“We really want to inform the schools and teachers in our community about the Y.E.S. Program,” said Tiphani Lee, assistant manager of recruitment and compliance. “We’re looking for the best and brightest candidates from our local schools.”

To be eligible, current high school seniors must have graduated by August 2019. Prospective hires must also have a valid state driver’s license, Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), an essay of consideration written by the student and two reference letters.

Joemell Williams shares his experiences as a Y.E.S. trainee with educators during a kick-off program at the Port of Savannah.

Manager of Learning and Development Tanya Chisholm stressed the necessity for young people to master soft skills needed to enter a professional environment, such as arriving on time, getting proper rest and having all proper work credentials.

“Having employees come to work ready for the day is key to a successful career at Georgia Ports,” Chisholm said.

Y.E.S. trainee Joemell Williams, a 2018 Islands High graduate, shared his experience at a recent kick-off meeting with school officials. Williams said he’s learned the importance of doing his job safely amongst all the non-stop activity at Garden City Terminal.

For prospective recruits, Williams noted the importance of dressing professionally for the interview — in a suit and tie. He said teachers conducted mock interviews to help him prepare. He also researched GPA to have a better understanding of the industry and thought about his answers before speaking.

Williams is planning his future at GPA and is also thankful that full company benefits kicked in on his first day.

“That took a lot of stress off my mother, with me getting off her insurance,” Williams said.

Container Yard Manager Vince Hamilton said watching the Y.E.S. trainees move into core operations positions has been rewarding.

Michael Thomas, a 2018 Bethesda Academy graduate, operates a jockey truck at Garden City Terminal.

At first, the new employees were overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the 1,200-acre facility, the largest single container terminal in North America. To make the transition easier, Y.E.S. trainees are paired with tenured GPA employees who serve as mentors. The mentors meet with the new hires bi-weekly to address any concerns on the job and provide valuable insight.

“It’s been an amazing transformation seeing these new employees come in staring at everything with eyes wide open to where they are today,” Hamilton said. For example, Hamilton said Williams has already been “cut loose” on terminal and is now driving a jockey truck.

Michael Thomas, a Bethesda Academy graduate and aspiring ship-to-shore crane operator, was familiar with the ports prior to learning about Y.E.S. He has several family friends working on terminal.

“It’s just a dream come true,” Thomas said. “I’ve always wanted to work out here.”

For details on the Y.E.S. Program, visit