MRAA names new director of workforce & foundation development

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas has hired Wendy Mackie as its Director of Workforce and Foundation Development, appointing her in the lead role in operating the MRAA Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded to provide financial support for education, training and professional development in the recreational marine industry.

Mackie brings to the MRAA a long history of workforce development expertise. Wendy’s roots are in youth and workforce development, non-profit leadership, alternative education and entrepreneurship. In 2006, Wendy aligned her work with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association centering her work around the creation and implementation of best practice industry training programs for youth and new workers. In 2014, Wendy spearheaded the development of the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island to better serve the industry’s manufacturing sector and in 2018, the MRAA, along with its partners at the National Marine Manufacturers Association, turned to Mackie to author a marine industry strategy for growing its workforce. That “10+1” strategy included local, state and national tactics businesses can use to strengthen their workforce, and the “Plus 1” represented a recommendation that the industry appoint someone to lead the marine industry’s national workforce efforts.

“The hiring of Wendy Mackie is that strategy coming to life,” says Matt Gruhn, president of MRAA. “For years, our members have struggled to find, hire and develop their workforce – the most critical part of their business. Wendy Mackie brings the highest level of expertise in workforce development that our industry knows, and we are thrilled to have her join our team.”

The board of directors at the MRAA Educational Foundation, which is a separate entity from the MRAA trade association, has endorsed Mackie’s comprehensive workforce development plan, which calls for a focus on the development of regional sectoral partnerships to address our industry’s most pressing demand-driven workforce challenges, like the engine technician shortage. The creation of these community-based coalitions mirrors best practice programming currently being supported by state and national funding streams. By instituting this model in regions across the country, the boating industry will have access to the workforce they need, where they need it, when they need it.

“The key,” according to Mackie, “is to tap into the dedicated workforce development funding streams in each area to ensure the training programs developed are sustainable. The money is there; we just need to show there is demand for the workers and that our industry’s employers will hire them. That’s where MRAA’s focus on this front will give us the platform to be successful.”

“Wendy understands the nation’s workforce development system and the needs of the marine industry,” says Jeff Siems, president of the MRAA Educational Foundation. “Our industry is going to benefit from her ability to connect the two. The MRAA Educational Foundation Board is thrilled to have Wendy leading the workforce development charge for our industry.”

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