Marine workforce development and boating careers took center stage at the outset of last week’s Progressive Insurance Norwalk Boat Show.
The Connecticut Marine Trade Association made a major announcement at an event-opening press conference Thursday morning at Norwalk Cove Marina.
Dozens of students from high schools, technical schools and marine schools from throughout the region listened to marine engineering and technology, management, and boat manufacturing speakers during a Boating Career day Friday, Sept. 21.
As the boating industry continues its drive to strengthen career development and training among the next generation, CMTA announced a bold new statewide education initiative.
Kathleen Burns, CMTA executive director, and Jon Pritko, vice president of northeast shows for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, spoke at a press conference before officially opening the 2018 Progressive Insurance Norwalk Boat Show.
Burns and Pritko were joined by Randy Jennings of Beacon Point Marine, chairman of the recently formed CMTA Foundation.
“It’s been a great year for boat sales,” Pritko told press conference attendees. NMMA is estimating a 5 percent to 6 percent increase in power boat sales for 2018 Beyond this national growth trend, Connecticut-based boating businesses are seeing a boost in new boat sales, he added.
“There has been a significant increase in purchase activity following the new state budget, which reduced the sales tax on new boats, motors, and trailers by over 50 percent,” Pritko reported.
The recently-enacted Connecticut state budget reduces the state sales tax on those marine-related items from 6.35 percent to 2.99 percent. The tax cut also gives boat lovers one more reason to upgrade or get started in boating, Pritko said.
Similar tax cuts in surrounding states such as New York and New Jersey have had a positive impact on sales and we hope to see a similar pattern for in Connecticut, Pritko said.
Connecticut boating sales totaled $170.7 million in 2017 including powerboats, engines, trailers and aftermarket accessories.
There were 92,058 Connecticut boat registrations in 2017.
There are 7,313 boating industry jobs in the state of Connecticut, direct and indirect). Boating businesses in Norwalk and the surrounding areas saw an increase of 10.4 percent in the number of powerboat units sold from 2016 to 2017.
In light of industry-wide growth manufacturers, dealers, and marinas across the country are focused on career development. They are looking to develop a skilled workforce and create awareness and excitement about the recreational boating industry, Pritko added.
NMMA’s Chart-A-Career in Boating event enabled students to hear from industry experts about what a career in recreational boating looks like. Students also toured the show and talked with exhibitors.
The importance of growing a skilled workforce and creating that awareness is a critical industry task today, Burns said. By the end of this year, Burns anticipated there will be over 30,000 open positions in the boating industry.
“It is up to us to share that passion and address this issue,” Burns said, prior to announcing that the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, Inc. had formed the CMTA Foundation, a 501 C3 charity dedicated the growth of the boating industry workforce.
“The purpose of the CMTA Foundation is to educate the next generations on the significant career opportunities available in this great industry – not just jobs – but real career paths,” Burns said. “The Foundation will allow us to engage in public and private partnerships to fund comprehensive training programs, to build a network of participating resources providing on-the-job training and to make available access to our marinas, dealerships and service sectors for the purpose of building a sustainable workforce.”
The Foundation’s six-member board includes a group of diverse and talented boating professionals who will launch the Foundation’s mission, Burns said. This group includes:
- Scott Bowden, Port Niantic Marina
- Dave Crocker, Crocker’s Boatyard
- Ron Helbig, Noank Village Boatyard
- Shannon McKenzie, Mystic Seaport Museum
- Lynn Oliver, Brewers Yacht Yards/Safe Harbor Marinas
- Randy Jennings, Beacon Point Marine
“Our goal within the foundation is to open up lines of communication from our members to young people, to create the connections and to be able to mentor the next generation,’” Jennings said. “I look forward to the coming year and hope that at next year’s boat show I can report to you the great success of our foundation."