Industry makes “COMITT”ment to technical training

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - The venue has been chosen, the roster is set and the game plan in place - success or failure now depends on the players.

The hype surrounding Sunday's Super Bowl maybe nearing its crescendo in Jacksonville, Fla., but nearly two years of planning and preparation for an event of equal significance to many in the boating industry are coming together this week at the other end of the state.

The first-ever Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training will begin this Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with almost 190 participants gathering to discuss ways to improve technical education and training within the marine industry and attempting to lay the groundwork for the creation of a uniformly skilled and professional workforce.

The American Boat & Yacht Council, National Marine Manufacturers Association and Professional BoatBuilder magazine will co-produce the event, and organizers say they are very pleased with the response they've received from the industry, both in terms of the number of attendees and the industry segments they represent.

“I think in our wildest dreams, whether spoken among ourselves or just secretly, we would have been ecstatic with 150 qualified participants,” says Carl Cramer, the publisher of Professional BoatBuilder and co-director of IBEX. “To be where we are now, turning people away, it resonates that there is a crying need for this type of gathering.”

ABYC education director Bonnie Barsa, who played a major role in coordinating the event, said some would-be participants, mainly from educational institutions, had been turned away from the conference, because the number of attendees had already exceeded the goals organizers had set in that segment.

“We don't want to have too big a gathering, because then it becomes difficult to get individual input, as well as consensus,” said Skip Burdon, ABYC president. “This is a good representation, kind of like the United Nations of the boating industry, where we have all market segments coming together, but not in such big numbers that we can't discuss and then take possible actions to future events.”

Burdon said representatives from boat yard and repair facilities, as well as manufacturers and members of 56 educational institutions are among those from the various segments that will be on hand.

What COMITT hopes to accomplish
Organizers have several goals in mind as opening day of the conference approaches, but believe that simply by bringing the industry together with educators, and providing a platform for discussions to take place, two important goals have already been met.

Burdon says some of his other objectives for COMITT are to facilitate discussion of the new electronic age and the delivery of electronic education, and to be able to get a sense from the industry of whether it wants to take an industry-national approach to managing education and training.

“Not directing it, but managing it so that both the industry gets credit for it, and the person that receives the education and training gets credit for it,” Burdon said.

Cramer says one of the ways organizers of the event will deem it a success is if the participants want to do it again at a future date, and adds that if the industry would like COMITT to become something more than a one-time event, the organizers stand ready to make that happen.

“If that's what the industry wants, and hopefully that is what they will want, then we're prepared to do it,” Cramer said. “This is the beginning, I think we will deem it successful if we, as organizers, feel there has been enough healthy exchange of information and identification of future goals.”

But Burdon believes the success or failure of COMITT will ultimately depend on the participants.

“We really want people to come prepared,” Burdon said. “That's what is going to define the ultimate success of COMITT, is whether the industry and the educators get together and dialogue and are sincere about carrying forth the importance of education and professional development.”
- Jonathan Mohr

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