Industry gets behind COMITT

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. – The second Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training wrapped up in Safety Harbor, Fla., Jan. 24 having received a strong endorsement from its participants.

Where the first COMITT meeting, held last year in Fort Lauderdale, was structured to try and identify the problems surrounding technician training, this year’s conference looked at trying to find solutions. Toward that end, COMMIT organizers — the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Professional Boatbuilder Magazine — used the conference to help populate the committees that will deal with the specific problems that have been identified.

Presentations by the committee leaders were given, and COMITT attendees were asked to volunteer to serve on those that interested them.

ABYC President Skip Burdon said that as COMITT ’06 drew to a close, 85 percent of those who attended had volunteered to serve on one, or more, committees.

“That’s an astonishing thing,” Burdon said. “People came to COMITT ‘05 with the expectation to acknowledge that there is an issue and that there is a challenge before us. At COMMIT ’06 they’ve come realizing that we’re starting to implement, as a team, measures to effectively deal with that challenge. And that’s really important.”

Burdon said that everyone he had talked to during the conference had told him that the speakers were on target with the right information, had valuable information and have left them motivated, knowing they can work in the system now to make effective change.
From the perspective of the marine businesses that were represented at COMITT, both at the manufacturing and retail levels, information was given on how they could find funding to train current employees or find and hire qualified candidates using workforce development centers, one-stop shops or career centers and also department of labor resources.

Organizers sought to make sure that this year’s COMITT participants, not already involved, become a part of the process going forward, giving them the opportunity to make comments and give input, so that they have a sense of ownership in the effort.
COMITT organizers said they are exactly where they want to be from a staffing standpoint as the conference drew to a close. However, more committee members are still needed, and anyone interested in volunteering should contact Burdon at, or visit and click on the COMITT logo for further information.

The committees are subdivisions of the divisions established by the Marine Industry Technical Education Council – a 23-member panel established after last year’s COMITT, which oversees the effort on an ongoing basis.

The established divisions include:

  • Career Awareness & Opportunities – to propose career awareness programs and initiatives for the community, industry and educational institutions that promote career fields and opportunities in the marine trades.
  • Professional Development – to propose, and if approved, implement and manage a program that will review voluntarily submitted assessment-based courses that award certification or accreditation upon successful completion.
  • Economic Resources – to seek, investigate, acquire and/or facilitate transfer or award of available economic resources desired by education and training centers in support of their programs (ex. materials support for a high school or trades program).
  • Workforce Development – to propose and implement programs that work with local, state, federal and “other” workforce development councils, associations, etc. to provide economic support to marine organizations that provide workforce training and professional development to their technicians.
  • Organizational Administration of MITEC – to propose, and if approved, manage an appropriate education information management system, and also ensure the efficient flow of information regarding MITEC and its working committees between members of the MITEC, as well as industry.
  • Burdon, who is MITEC’s secretary, said organizers are hopeful that COMITT will be held again next year, but that will ultimately depend on feedback from this year’s participants and whether or not the industry feels another conference will be helpful.

    “Right now we feel very committed that there will be another COMITT next year, but we’re leaving that up to the attendees to reinforce that idea,” Burdon said. “The next COMITT would have to be a much heavier involvement in breaking out committees and courses of action.

    “We’ve got many of the tools now, and the next step is to take those tools and start working the problem and building it out. So I’m hoping there will be a COMITT next year, it would be a COMITT of planned action items and committee interaction.”
    Burdon said the next step for MITEC is to fully develop, integrate and take action. A lot of things will be done over the next year, such as putting up a Web site that industry and educators can use to disseminate information about technical education and make connections with one another.

    Burdon likened those attending this year’s COMITT to a congress, and told them they should also think of themselves that way. They are the representatives of the various constituencies from which they come, but he asked them to go back and share what they learned with others and spread the word about the importance of this effort.

    MITEC chair Ed Boncek, director of Dealer Channel Management Systems, Sea Ray Boats, summed up the importance of COMITT, MITEC and the ongoing efforts to establish a comprehensive plan to grow and educate the technician workforce, as the conference opened, telling attendees, “We want to be a group that helps bring about significant change. The timing couldn’t be better to make a significant dent in this problem, if not solve it. If we can pull this off, it will be one of the most significant things I’ve done in my career.”

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    – Jon Mohr

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