MITEC survey seeks marine workforce data

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Information will be used to allocate grant funding, identify trends and determine skills needs

A key factor in obtaining grant money to improve workforce training and recruitment of marine technicians is verification of the industry’s labor market demand and supply needs.

“Funding sources want empirical data on the actual needs of the industry,” said Steve Kitchin, chairman of the Marine Industry Training & Education Council. “There are about 600 workforce development boards across the country with access to dollars, but they require verification of your needs. They don’t want to waste resources.”

“Once you have empirical information in hand, when you go to a workforce development board you’ve got something you can rest your hat on,” added Kitchin, who also serves as vice president of corporate education and training at the New England Institute of Technology.

MITEC recently launched an industry-wide needs analysis campaign to gather such information. The council is encouraging all marine employers — manufacturers, dealers, marinas — to take an online survey at the MITEC Web site www.boatingcareerinfo.org.

Survey questions include:
• Type and size of the company.
• Age range of the employees.
• Labor shortage and skill deficiencies in specific categories such as engines. electronics, fiberglass, etc.
• Deficiencies in worker traits such as punctuality, teamwork and communication skills, shop math and analytical skills.
• Types of training programs offered to existing workers.
• What steps would help attract new hires to the marine industry.
• Steps necessary to improve workforce training for the marine trades.

It only takes 10 to 12 minutes to complete the survey, and it’s one more bit of data that can be presented to funders and help the industry as a whole, according to Kitchin.

Once the analysis is completed, anyone working in the marine industry will have access to the information on the MITEC Web site.

For example, a school that is establishing a marine training program or curriculum can show how its courses will help build a necessary labor force in a particular geographic area.

More than 100 people have already responded to the survey.

“Our goal is to obtain at least 1,000 responses to give us the quantity of data we seek, both in terms of training requirements and workforce development needs,” said Ed Sherman, director of MITEC’s professional development division. “The more responses we receive, the more detailed analysis we will be able to provide, right down to a regional perspective.”

Many marine trade organizations can’t afford to collect regional data on their own, and that can prevent them from seeking funding, said Ed Lofgren, director of MITEC’s workforce development division.

“Many of them don’t realize the state of their workforce or the status of their workforce,” said Lofgren, a Massachusetts dealer who has long been involved in educational issues for his state’s marine trades association.

“Massachusetts faced this a few years back,” he said. “We had to come up with a survey and find some means of implementing this survey.

“We compiled a lot of information by e-mail,” Lofgren explained. “We confirmed what we thought was true — there is a tremendous need for skilled, trained technicians in our industry. And we found out our needs were getting worse and worse, to the point where it would have inhibited our ability to serve the customer and to expand.”

Based on those survey results, the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association began working with community colleges to create marine technician programs.

“That’s what this needs analysis will do on a national level,” said Lofgren.

To take the MITEC needs analysis survey, visit www.boatingcareerinfo.org.

Links have also been placed on Web sites of the American Boat & Yacht Council, Professional BoatBuilder magazine, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and MITEC’s social networking site at www.marinelear.ning.com. Other trade groups or companies interested in posting a link to the survey on their Web sites can contact Barbara Jean Walsh of ProBoat E-Training at proboattraining@earthlink.net for the appropriate code.

This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue.

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