The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas has engaged leadership from throughout the marine industry in its application to the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Apprenticeship Building America” Grant Program.
Labeled Building Out Apprenticed Trades (BOAT) jobs, MRAA’s application received written letters of support and recommendation from 26 marine-industry organizations, including all of the leading engine manufacturers and the world’s three largest marine-dealership operations.
A 2017 MRAA survey revealed that by 2019, the number of open positions in dealerships would exceed 31,000 — a number that does not include vacancies of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and other marine related businesses. By 2019, with the number of dealerships growing nationwide, the expected 31,000-person deficit was much higher and was no longer just a human resources issue, but also an economic one. And then came COVID-19.
Recognizing the need to tackle this nationally with urgency, MRAA engaged former Rhode Island Marine Trades Association CEO Wendy Mackie to catalyze “Strategy 10+1: A Marine Industry Guide to Growing the Workforce,” the workforce plan sanctioned by 25 regional and national-marine industry associations.
The BOAT Jobs approach to workforce development will allow for shared knowledge and resources across the regions while delivering local results-based training, mentoring, and hiring.
“The BOAT Jobs development team, which included the entire staff at MRAA and other industry association leadership, was inspired by the incredible outpouring of support and desire for this workforce development effort,” said Wendy Mackie, director of workforce and foundation development at the MRAA. “BOAT Jobs is truly a national, industry-wide effort that will give us the ability to address, head-on, our ongoing workforce shortages and ensure there is a continuous pipeline of marine industry talent.”
The grant funding, which could award MRAA with as much as $8 million over four years, would help to create technician and other service-department apprenticeship and education programs, in addition to providing seed money for industry businesses to subsidize the costs of hiring apprentices. Funding will also support the development of a national career awareness and recruitment campaign and funding to hire a dedicated workforce person in each Registered Apprenticeship Hub.
MRAA received letters of support from the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Association of Marina Industries, American Boat Builders & Repairers Association, National Marine Electronics Association, and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. The application was also supported by state-based associations and workforce development organizations, which will serve as appointed hubs: Boating Industry Association of Central New York, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Maryland Marine Trades Association, Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, Massachusetts Marine Trades Association, Michigan Boating Industry Association, RealTime Talent Minnesota, Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, and Northwest Marine Trades Association with the Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology at Skagit Valley College (Washington).
Mackie added, "It will be an all-hands effort. The BOAT Jobs program supports MRAA’s commitment to partnership as a pathway to solving the industry’s workforce issues. We all have to work together in order to build a sustainable workforce for our industry."