School debates future of boat-building class

BRADENTON, Fla. — With boat building jobs now scarce in Florida and across the country, Florida’s Manatee Technical Institute is considering dropping the boat-building class it started in early 2008, according to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

When the program started, MTI officials saw boat building as the best way to teach manufacturing and the use of materials like fiberglass – plus they hoped companies would stay if the area had more trained workers. Now, with students struggling to find jobs, the Herald-Tribune reports that school officials are considering whether to scrap the class and wondering how to keep their other manufacturing programs relevant.

The number of students studying welding and machining at MTI has stayed flat even while enrollment at the school has risen by 16 percent over the past two years, the paper reports. The school has expanded programs like health care and information technology, where jobs are still available.

Still, they fear if they stop producing skilled workers for manufacturers, they will drive away local companies or other prospective employers.

“We’re not going to stop training people for jobs that we can anticipate some opportunity for if not this moment at least sometime in the future,” spokeswoman Maura Howl told the paper.

Nearby Sarasota County Technical Institute closed its last manufacturing program, machining, in June 2007, and plans to begin a program in welding and soldering computer boards are on hold.

SCTI Director Todd Bowden told the paper: “We would produce 15 to 30 graduates a year, and we have to ask: Is there a job market to absorb that?”

To read the Herald-Tribune‘s complete report, click here.

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