The recreational boating industry, not unlike its commercial fishing counterpart, is staring down a burgeoning workforce shortage, particularly in skilled technicians. Now the industry and local vocational educators are trying to push back.
The Massachusetts Marine Trades Association, in conjunction with Yamaha Motor Corp., the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School and Gloucester’s Cape Ann’s Marina, is offering a pilot adult-education program to draw new blood to the marine technical services industry.
“We’re trying to buck the unfortunate trend we’re seeing in our industry of a nationwide shortage of skilled technicians,” said Randall M. Lyons, executive director of the MMTA, a recreational boating trade association. “We’re also offering the opportunity to get set up in a career that’s a lot of fun and that provides a solid, substantial living.”
The eight-week, 100-hour course is set to run Feb. 4 to March 26, with classes scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. The classes are designed to provide basic mechanical certification for Yamaha outboard motors and potentially serve as the first step in achieving certification as a master technician on outboard motors.
A Yamaha master technician will lead the class, providing classroom and hands-on instruction on such tasks as water pump replacement, oil changes and basic diagnostic skills, Lyons said. The cost is $800, but Lyons said the MMTA and its educational trust are offering fee reductions that will bring the cost to $400 — or perhaps even lower.
He said the organizations also have the financial wherewithal to provide scholarships to registered candidates who might have trouble affording even the $400.
“We don’t want to turn away anyone because of financial constraints,” he said.
The target class size is about 12. As of last week, according to Lyons, five had registered.
“We really think this is going to sell out,” he said.
Interested applicants may register online at Essex Tech’s adult education page, essex-adulted.coursestorm.com. The classes will be taught at Essex Tech in Danvers except for the week of Feb. 17 to 21, when they will be taught at Cape Ann’s Marina on Essex Avenue because of Essex Tech’s scheduled school vacation.
This is the first time the course is being offered in Massachusetts and only the third time nationally. It previously was offered in Ohio and Maine. It also is scheduled to be offered in Worcester, Feb. 25 through May 7, with classes set for Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Lyons said the workforce shortage was a hot topic at the MMTA’s Business of Boating Conference held Jan. 22 and 23 in Foxborough, as boating retailers, boat yards and marinas continue to express concerns over the paucity of skilled technicians available for technical positions.
“They need workforce,” Joe Maniscalco, service division manager at Yamaha Motor Corp., told the Soundings Trade Only Today website. “The schools are saying they have a school and instructors, but they need industry. We gave them curriculum, resources, instructor training and updated products because so many were working with products that were extremely outdated. We’re teaching current, market-relevant skills.”
In Massachusetts, the recreational boating industry is represented by more than 1,000 businesses that collectively employ more than 20,000 workers, with a cumulative economic impact of $4.46 billion, according to the MMTA.
Lyons singled out North Shore-based MMTA volunteers Mark Donaldson and Paul Jermain of Manchester for spearheading collaborative efforts with Yamaha, Essex Tech and Cape Ann’s Marina.
“They deserve a special shoutout,” Lyons said. “They put in a substantial amount of legwork over the last year. Without them, this course probably doesn’t happen.”
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.