As the recreational boating industry pushes forward, leaders across all segments are tasked to tackle new challenges regularly. Industry advocates continually call for new ideas and innovation to maintain growth and success.
An ever-growing challenge facing both manufacturers and dealerships has been filling the workforce ranks of the industry. With many working to tackle the issue in-house, Marina Holdings owner Steve Arnold and his team aim to find a solution by bringing the industry together.
In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Arnold worked with Yamaha Marine and an area community college to create a grant-funded, extensive Yamaha outboard motor repair-training program. Ultimately, the grant allows the college to offer the training free of charge to qualified students.
“Qualified marine mechanics are a scarce resource. So, we decided to tackle the issue head on. We’ve had a strong business relationship with Yamaha for years, and as a board member for Maine Marine Trades Association, it made sense to bring these two great organizations together to help create a program that would attract and train certified marine technicians,” Arnold said. “From there, we brought in Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) to pull it all together and assist with the instructional details.”
Overall, the program underwent three years of development and organization before officially launching.
After a petition for state funding to cover the program was approved to the tune of a $44,000 grant, Marina Holdings and the team of partners worked to fully vet students for the class to assure that students met the required background to achieve success in the course.
The course, includes a variety of classroom learning, as well as concentrated hands-on training across all aspects of engine repair.
More than 40 applicants applied for the program’s first run, which only had space for 15 students per semester.
“Access to a seat in the program was almost a ‘golden ticket’ type of instance, as the opportunity became highly coveted to the interested students,” Arnold said.
The first class of 15 students graduated in the spring armed with a certificate of Introduction to Outboard Technology and an SST Certificate and qualified to be four-stroke marine mechanics in the state of Maine. Those with exemplary grades also earn an In-Line Engine Certificate, which Arnold says they expect about one-third of students to achieve. “All of the students will also be able to use all of these certificates toward securing their Master’s Certification,” Arnold added.
As the workforce shortage continues to affect many across the industry, it’s clear that manufacturers, dealers, and all other aspects will have to work together to bring about a solution.
“Our goal is not just selling boats and filling slips,” Arnold said. “We actively work to make sustainable and positive changes for the boating industry.”
“We’re very proud of how this hands-on training program has evolved, and thrilled to be able to lend a hand in giving back to the marine industry,” Arnold added.
“The marine service industry is in need of many different positions, but qualified and quality technicians are in the highest demand,” added Joe Maniscalco, Yamaha Marine Service Division Manager. “Steve Arnold leveraged the resources Yamaha Marine has to offer and took them to the next level with the development of this course at SMCC. We encourage all dealers to leverage relationships with local technical schools as a means of recruiting the next generation of marine technicians.”
Arnold said he hopes that this program and partnership will serve as a blueprint that other states, manufacturers and dealerships can implement across the country to help combat the nation-wide technician shortage.
“There is always room for improvement in all aspects,” Arnold said. “Simply saying ‘that’s the way we’ve always done things, so that’s how we’re going to do it’ only means that there is room for improvement.”