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Fuel comes to the boat; MRAA helps on workforce challenge

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Mobile, on-demand fill-ups make a ton of sense in with today’s hectic schedules. Also. MRAA can help you set up an in-house apprentice program.

Driving down the interstate to my boat at Suntex Marina yesterday, I was already absorbed in thoughts about the fish we were about to catch when my wife, Kay, said, “Look at that truck.”

She was calling attention to a tanker truck I was about to pass. “Grab your phone and shoot a picture for me,” I said.

It was the biggest example I’ve of a growing convenience business for boat owners: on-demand fueling. And why not? Truth, is we have all become worshippers of convenience.

We call Uber Eats and GrubHub to bring us meals. Postmates, the whatever-you-can-think-of delivery app, will deliver almost anything from anywhere on command. It sure seems like we can have whatever we crave brought right to our doors.

So it’s no surprise that on-demand fueling continues to grow in appeal. For the many boaters, the convenience of having the boat filled up while it’s in the driveway at home eliminates the time-consuming stop at the gas station. They can head straight to the ramp.

In addition, most of the mobile fueling services — Filld, Fuelster, Neighborhood Fuel, Yoshi and others — will deliver ethanol-free gas, which, by the way, may help reduce the misfueling we expect to face if E15 sales are allowed year-round.

Boaters with demanding schedules and disposable income are obvious candidates for outsourcing their fueling. Indeed, boaters are a logical target market, even better than cars, because our fill-ups are much larger than most cars.

Some services charge a subscription fee, others a service charge. In most cases, the price per gallon is comparable to local gas stations. And let’s face it, we already think nothing of paying a service charge when the meals from Outback or Oliver Garden to arrive at the front door.

Workforce Ideas from MRAA

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas — an organization of which every dealer should be a member — considers it a top priority to help its members become more successful, according to Mike Davin who recently noted, “We frequently hear from dealers that their biggest struggles are workforce challenges” — often in the form of a lack of qualified technicians.

“With a shortage of readily available help in the existing workforce,” Davin continued, “many successful dealerships have focused their attention on developing talent internally.”

To that end, he offered are some good tips for growing technicians in-house.

1. Create a roadmap. Outline the progression of what it takes to become a master technician. This doesn’t just benefit incoming trainees; it will help all service department employees to understand what their career journey will look like.

2. Set competency benchmarks. Make a list of the training, skills and certifications required to graduate to technician status. The qualifications in your current technician job descriptions are a good starting point.

3. Develop a timeline. People need to understand how long it will take to move through your program. Estimate the time it will take to acquire the necessary skills.

4. Structure your compensation. If you don’t have one already, develop an incentive-based compensation plan. (A starting apprentice with entry-level skills should receive about 50 percent of a standard “journeyperson” wage.)

5. Get buy-in. For trainees to become successful, you’ll need internal champions who believe in the program. The good news is that, if used correctly, an apprentice can increase billed labor for a lead technician — and cover their cost for the first year.

These tips are taken from MRAA’s latest white paper, available online now. MRAA members can obtain this step-by-step manual on how to design, recruit and evaluate an apprenticeship program. Download the “The Guide to Apprenticeship.”

For those who are not yet members, MRAA is offering a free resource that covers the first six steps in the planning and design of your apprenticeship program. Download it here.

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