Maine boatbuilders hurt by workforce shortage

EAST BOOTHBAY, Maine — Almost every boatyard in Maine is in need of workers, according to a survey done this year for industry group Maine Built Boats, and an effort is underway educate the state’s youth about the benefits of working in the industry, USA Today reported in a story yesterday.

Some boatyards have had to use agencies to bring in contract workers from places such as Louisiana and Florida.

"With the history of our industry, you'd think our kids'd be saying, 'Gee, I want to build boats.' But you don't hear that," John Kashmar of Wilbur Yachts in Southwest Harbor, Maine, told the newspaper.

Reasons cited for the shortage include Maine’s aging workforce, the average age of boatyard workers is in the mid-40s, and ignorance about boat building. Many boatyards are located on coastal peninsulas, far from the cities and suburbs of southern Maine.

There is also a tendency these days among high school students to opt for college or more white-collar jobs, and a disdain for blue-collar work.

Maine has received a $15 million federal economic development grant to bolster the industry, some of which will be spent to train workers in the latest ways to use fiberglass and composite materials. The state’s manufacturing in general is slumping. But fueled by a strong demand for custom-built sailing yachts and powerboats, the state's boat builders have added several hundreds of jobs and about $19 million in annual wages since 2000, USA Today reported.

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