Developing a new workforce

If you’re having a hard time finding talent for your business’s open positions, how about contracting a retiree?

This is an approach in the healthcare and insurance sectors taken by companies such as YourEncore and Work at Home Vintage Employees. In the case of WAHVE, the company works with professionals looking to phase into retirement, or “pretirement,” by working as consultants or contractors. The ultimate goal is to keep seasoned veterans productive longer and continue drawing from their well of knowledge.

Think about it: The baby boomers are retiring and have a wealth of experience, and many industries – including our own – lack the skilled labor entering the workforce required to take the helm. If you can hire someone who knows the ins and the outs of the job, why wouldn’t you?

Here’s why I don’t think this is the right approach: How long can we remain dependent on the previous generation? Are we really going to follow them to the grave, begging them to keep working for us and using their talent? Haven’t they earned a break?

If you have retirees who want to work, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t hire them. But we can’t keep relying on this generation. They have more than earned their years of relaxation and we are responsible for building our own future.

Instead of relying on retirees, be proactive and match your veteran workforce with young employees for on-the-job mentoring. Engage in local trade programs and with area high schools to promote the benefits of the industry.

Luckily, the Marine Mechanics Institute, the Pre-Apprentice Training Program hosted by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and many other programs are working diligently to build tomorrow’s marine professionals.

One area I think is worth exploring is involvement with vocational high schools. Minuteman High School in Lexington, Mass., is one such high school that offers “tracks” for students to learn vocational skills while earning their high school diploma.

It reminds me of the post-secondary enrollment options in some states, where students can attend college classes for both high school credit and credit towards a degree at a four-year university.

The main difference is that those credits are often “general” courses, and vocational high schools provide training that could help students earn a job in their “track” immediately after graduation, saving thousands and thousands of dollars in student loan debt associated with earning a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re in New Jersey, the Monmouth County Vocational School District offers a Marine Trades track, which offers a two-year program in the structural, mechanical and electrical systems in marine watercraft. The Landing School in Maine, the Northwest Maritime Center in Washington state and the Marine Trades Summer Work and Learn program hosted by RIMTA are other great examples of programs for high schoolers.

A Google search for “vocational high schools” and your state’s name should bring up all of the schools in your area, where you can start searching for trade programs that are geared towards the marine industry. Reach out to those schools, build relationships with students and network for potential jobs in the future. If there are none, it may be an opportunity to meet with your local vocational high school about the benefits of adding a marine trades program.

We need to focus on preparing the next generation to take up the mantle, highlighting the lifelong benefits of working in the marine industry, and let the previous generation enjoy a much-deserved retirement – preferably on the water.

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