A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Reaching out to young employees

While at IBEX I attended the workforce development seminar and one of the panelists, Pat Kearns, asked why ‘The Future Boatbuilders of America,’ doesn’t exist.
Excellent question.

I pose it to you.

The creation of such a group holds limitless opportunities. Employers could draw from a talented pool of budding designers, electricians, engineers, engine technicians, fiberglass laminators, carpenters, etc.

Such a group would also foster the mentoring program, which was introduced at IBEX. Pat, of the Recreational Marine Experts Group, has been a mentor to 19-year-old Quinton Rubin who works at a marina in south Florida. The two have been learning valuable lessons from each other an, what’s more, the industry could gain a future boatbuilder in Rubin.

I know it takes time and energy to form committees and create an association. But the one that Pat is talking about could be an answer to the skilled labor crisis. 

Perhaps a lot of the grumbling heard in today’s soft market can be turned into positive energy by engaging in discussion about forming ‘The Future Boatbuilders of America.’ Worth some thought, at least.

Lois Caliri


3 comments on “Reaching out to young employees

  1. Lisa Knapp

    Such programs exist in Ft. Lauderdale with Broward Community College in conjuntion with the McFatter Program other marine groups. It is a real school that high school students attend as part of their studies. I believe there are boat building, welding and service courses, and simulated galleys and engine rooms. A similar program/school recently launched in England, too.

    Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach also have several well established marine magnate high schools with large enrollments. It is a great way to expose the kids to explore their nautical aspirations and be on a fast track for their first real job in the marine industry.

    The wooden boat building and restoration schools, like IYRS, have great programs, but small enrollments, for some reason.

  2. Patricia Kearns

    I have been delighted with the reactions to my appearance on the IBEX panel discussion of workforce development in the marine industry. Lois has published two references to my enthusiasm for mentoring and I hope that we will not be the only two people in this discussion forum. Steve Kitchin puts it all in dollar and cents and sense, the common kind. His empirical data not only supports the need for but also affirms the solutions. What I have experienced is a very simple and very personal approach to lighting one lamp instead of cursing the darkness. Each of us has some power, great or small, to effect change on issues like this.

    What I see about to happen is the workforce deficit colliding with the Grow Boating and Discover Boating campaigns to create a growth in boating that is intended to produce more boat owners who will consume current and future inventories of new and used boats and the corresponding increase in the demand for related products and services. The dynamic of having Discover Boating’s dream come true is likely to be confounded by the attrition of the currently employed industry workforce as it approaches retirement and more time to pursue its own dreams of boating pleasure. Who will replace these people? Where are those who are “following in … footsteps?”

    Well, everybody who is anybody knows there is a problem and the training fronts are being established in multiple venues. MITEC and COMITT are realities and ABYC, NMMA and other vested industry entitles are circling their wagons to bring solutions to the table and to energize the mechanisms to induce interest in marine industry careers and to produce people with the skills to follow in the footsteps of the first generation of our contemporary recreational boating industry professionals.

    With all that is already in place, it appears that we will have the facilities and the resources for education and training. My concern is where will we get the bodies to fill the classrooms that are becoming more and more available. Who will ignite the sparks of latent interest in those people, men and women, girls and boys who could bring an enormous reservoir of talent and potential as our workforce of the near future? I bless all the current efforts but I urge the same people to consider one of the most reliable, least expensive and most productive ways to engender interest in making recreational boating a career.

    It looks like we are working well to serve the long-terms needs but there is a way to plug the short-term gap and that is in mentoring. We who are already in the business of boating need to be visible as career professionals in our communities, in the schools and over our neighborhood fences. You never know when a young (or young at heart) passion for boating can be turned into a passion for being in the boating business. We have focused on Discover Boating as a recreational option. We need to put some of that energy into developing a focus on helping others discover careers in boating. Look around you. Find one person and tuck them under your wing for awhile. It’s an amazing experience to learn that our perception is that the one being mentored is getting the good deal. It works both ways. Don’t worry about the ROI (return on investment). Do it for the pleasure of it. The ROI will come. Take a kid or someone you know who might be looking at a career change to work with you. Show somebody the ropes. It only takes one success to bring big progress if each of us does a little mentoring. Think back on your own beginnings in the boat business. You see mentors there, in one form or another.

    Someday we might have a Future Boatbuilders of America that will mirror the success of Future Teachers of America and Future Homebuilders of America, both longstanding models of workforce development. In the meantime, remember that mentoring is probably the oldest form of workforce building and it’s tried and true and anybody can do it. Spread your own passion for your work around the neighborhood. You’ll get more back than you give. I guarantee it!

  3. Gordy McKelvey

    Thirty years in this business has shown me the playing field in the marine industry is far from level, especially for technicians and production line employees. South Florida represents only a small fraction of the boating industry. It seems however that all the noise about work force developement comes from that part of the country. I blame that on the weather.

    Most dealerships and service centers try to do 12 months worth of business in five or six months. I blame that on the weather. Most boat owners will shove their rigs’ in the garage after Labor Day and forget about it until a week before Memorial Day. What ever was broke in September usually stays broke until May. Even with a lot of emails, phone calls, post cards, off season specials, etc., it’s still hard to get those boats into the dealships for off season service.

    Until boat owners realize that the marine industry is a 12 month a year business and take advantage of the “slack time” to have their boats serviced, it’s going to be hard for these employers to pay a decent wage to their techs. And until techs get paid what they are worth 12 months a year, it’s going to be tough to convince anyone that a life time career in the marine industry is a viable way to earn a living.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.