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FLIBS 2014: Superyacht industry seeks next-generation talent

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FORT LAUDERDALE — The superyacht industry is very focused on attracting the next generation of buyers, but it is not paying enough attention to cultivating the next generation of craftsmen, engineers, marketers and crew to build, maintain, sell and operate the growing fleet of yachts larger than 80 feet.

That was the issue Megayacht News editor Diane Byrne put to a panel Wednesday morning at the annual breakfast meeting of the International Superyacht Society at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

A rigorous, company-sponsored four-year apprenticeship program is attracting high school graduates and instilling in them the skills and culture of superyacht builder Pendennis Shipyard Ltd., of Falmouth, England, according to the yard’s sales and marketing director Toby Allies.

Pendennis hires 12 new apprentices a year through a national recruitment drive that draws 120 applicants for the positions, Allies said.

“A third of our work force has come from that apprenticeship program,” Allies said. “They come out of the program with a fantastic level of training and investment in their skill set.”

Marnix Hoekstra and Bart Bouwhuis, directors of the Dutch yacht design firm Vripack, said in a video interview that they sponsor a dinghy-building competition with a local school to spark students’ interest in a yachting career.

Wendy Lind, director of career services for the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, said she links graphic, web and industrial design, advertising, social media, photography and other art majors with the marine industry through internships.

Byrne said companies need to start cultivating members of Generation Z — young people born in the 1990s and 2000s — to attract up-and-coming talent “across all fields, from the shipyard floor to the back office.”

Members of the generation comprise 27 percent of the population of the world, a quarter of the U.S. population and 18 percent of Europe’s population, she said.

ISS named its new officers: Derek Wagner, managing director, MTN Communications, president; Gary DeSanctis, vice president/group publisher of Active Interest Media’s Marine Group, vice president; Michelle Leung, Marsh yacht insurance, treasurer; and Byrne, the Megayacht News editor, secretary.

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