In an effort to fill the boat shoes of retiring marine tradesmen and women, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association created a summertime boatbuilding program aimed at high school students.
For such a small state, Rhode Island has a considerable amount of coastline—approximately 400 miles of it. But even with all those sandy shores, craggy cliffs, and rolling Atlantic waves that characterize “the Ocean State,” many young Rhode Islanders aren’t aware of career options in the marine industry.
The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association is hoping to rectify that with a summer boatbuilding program for high schoolers.
“Young people especially do not know what the marine industry has to offer by way of careers,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of RIMTA. “… Our programs in Rhode Island are helping more young people in our state to learn about our industry as a place to build a career.”
Hosted at a handful of high schools throughout the state, the summer boatbuilding program gives groups of students the training they need to build boats, such as dinghies, dories, and skiffs. After completing the program, students get to take their boats out on the water.
“The goal of our summer boatbuilding program is to get the students on the water in the boat that they built,” Mackie said. “A team of students work on a boat together, and this helps to instill pride in product—a key soft skill in manufacturing and the marine industry.”
But along with promoting awareness of the industry, RIMTA is also hoping to build the future workforce. As much of the current marine trades’ workforce is approaching retirement, a new crop hasn’t yet risen up to take their places.
“There is a workforce gap in the marine industry, and that is magnified because of the branding and awareness issues,” Mackie said. “We also have to factor some strong cultural trends into the planning of our training programs—and that includes a graying workforce in manufacturing, and the fact that many young people don’t see a hands-on trade as their first choice when it comes to building a career.”
RIMTA hopes that exposing students to boatbuilding in high school will also draw their attention to its Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program. This seven-week program gives Rhode Islanders 18 years and older a broad education of the industry, from rigging to welding. It also gives them on-the-job experience, so they can make connections in the industry and find the marine trade that they most enjoy. After completing the program, RIMTA said the job placement rate is above 90 percent.