FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Organizers had challenged participants to come prepared to contribute, and on day one of the first-ever Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training, the attendees didn’t disappoint.
Lively discussion and frank exchange were the rule as the nearly 200 dealers, manufacturers, surveyors, educators and association members took part in a series of seminars and breakout sessions designed to help improve technical education and training within the marine industry and build a more skilled and professional workforce.
“I thought it was really a terrific start, I was ecstatic with the way things went,” said Skip Burdon, president of the American Boat & Yacht Council – which is co-producing the event with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Professional BoatBuilder magazine. “I found that people were engaged consistently, they were actively asking some of the more difficult questions and were passionate about what they had to say. There is no doubt in my mind now that this is a hot-button issue for our industry.“
Day one review
COMITT began with a breakfast meeting moderated by Bill Yeargin, an executive vice president with yacht builder Rybovich Spencer.
Yeargin told the audience, “We may look back at these two days, five, 10 or 15 years from now as a real turning point in our industry.”
Burdon also welcomed the attendees with some opening remarks, as did NMMA president Thom Dammrich and Carl Cramer, editor of Professional BoatBuilder.
Dammrich spoke about the current shortage of trained technicians in an industry that has essentially been stagnant for the past 10 years, and said that with the industry working to launch its Grow Boating campaign, that shortage is only going to worsen unless something is done.
A panel discussion followed the breakfast meeting, with educators from around the country given the opportunity to get up and share some details about the programs currently available to educate those in the workforce, and those who would like to enter it.
Two breakout sessions came next as attendees divided into their respective specialties to determine and discuss the problems and solutions unique to each, with regard to technical training.
Al Weinstein, of Weinstein Associates – and a member of the ABYC Board of Directors – was the featured speaker during a luncheon meeting, telling those assembled that education is a fundamental need if the industry is to grow. He also suggested that the marine industry follow the auto industry and develop a “Mr. Goodwrench” type of program.
More breakout sessions followed after lunch, then Dr. Kitty Manley of the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute gave the last presentation of the day, speaking about her company, which develops tests for Fortune 500 companies. Manley talked about how the tests are created, what they can be used for, and also about the value that certification programs have brought to other industries.
Goals for day two
More presentations and breakout meetings are scheduled for today. COMITT will wrap up during an afternoon session, moderated by Yeargin, which will attempt to determine what was accomplished by the conference and what the next steps must be.
Burdon says that if the participants reach a consensus that they want to continue the process begun at COMITT, and he believes they will, the next step is to start taking some actions. He believes the creation of chat rooms and teleconferences might be a good way to keep the dialogue going, even after COMITT ends.
“We have to take what we have here now and translate it to three or four action items that we can depart with, and say this is our plan until we meet again,” he said. “I would hope that one of our outcomes to this will be to actively engage a communications tool within the next four to six weeks.” – Jonathan Mohr
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