Something new at Career Day: Hiring

Posted on Written by Richard Armstrong

Rhode Island industry opens its doors to young people and this year it has some jobs for them

For the eighth consecutive year, Rhode Island’s marine trades industry held an open house of sorts, inviting potential workers to take a closer look at career opportunities.

More than 100 people attended the annual Marine Industry & Career Day, which was sponsored by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and the International Yacht Restoration School and held March 23 at IYRS’s Newport campus.

Twenty-six exhibitors were on hand — boatbuilders, boatyards, service reps and suppliers — and in a positive economic sign, says RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie, most were hiring. “Career Days in recent years have produced many job seekers with few available jobs. This year, we witnessed the opposite,” Mackie says. “It’s exciting to see so many companies hiring. It’s a clear sign the industry is back on a growth track.”

Among the list of 20 exhibitors who said they were searching for quality hires were Hinckley Yacht Services, Hunt Yachts, New England Boatworks, Boston Boatworks, Hodgdon Yachts, C&C Fiberglass Components, Bristol Marine, Jamestown Boatyard, Oldport Marine Services, Conanicut Marine and East Passage Boatwrights.

A survey of RIMTA members in January revealed that the 50 respondents — who employ a combined 700 people — had created 93 new positions in the previous 12 months and expected to add another 84 full-time jobs in the next 12 months, according to Mackie. She says Hunt Yachts has made six hires in the past several months and plans to add more.

Neal Harrell, founder of Newport-based Brooks Marine Group, a recruiting firm, was one of several exhibitors who gave presentations. He says the industry clearly is on a hiring uptick. “I can’t tell you how much better it is than in 2009,” he says of his business, which was handling 13 open searches for its clients in late March.

“Certain sectors are a little healthier — boatyard and repair versus OEM — but companies are hiring smarter than I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been in the industry,” he says. “They’re thinking hard about the role they need filled and the right person to do it. One of the good things that came out of the recession was companies learned how to operate lean and mean and cross-train their workers.”

Mechanics, systems-related technicians, electronics experts and composites builders are skill areas that are in high demand, Harrell says.

Organizers stress that Career Day is far from just a job fair; it’s meant to help dispel myths about marine industry employment, both for job hunters and career changers. “Outside of the industry, there’s a lack of awareness regarding the wide variety of job types available in the marine trades,” Mackie says. “People think industry jobs are low-paying or seasonal only. We are promoting the great career opportunities available to attract people with a diverse set of skills and strengths.”

Beyond job seekers, opening the doors of a working boatbuilding facility to boaters also has value. “It’s a chance to showcase the trade to the general public and let them learn about all the skill and expertise Rhode Island’s marine industry has to offer the boating public,” Mackie says.

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue.

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