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Employers seek future talent at R.I. career event

An estimated 200 job seekers attended the 10th annual Marine & Composites Industry Career Day Saturday in Newport, R.I.

An estimated 200 job seekers attended the 10th annual Marine & Composites Industry Career Day Saturday in Newport, R.I.

NEWPORT, R.I. — Two Rhode Island marine trades groups held their 10th annual Marine & Composites Industry Career Day on Saturday amid steadily improving news about business and employment.

“In terms of hiring, we have the highest number of positions open from marinas, dealerships and manufacturers in our 12 years of serving the industry,” Brooks Marine Group president Neal Harrell told Trade Only Today. “The latest and most encouraging trend is that we’re finally seeing an upswing on the manufacturing side.”

Harrell said his marine-specific recruiting firm was retained to fill 37 industry positions nationwide. For perspective, that’s double the number it had a year ago and a long way from the zero it had on its docket in the summer of 2009.

He said the industry is still recovering from “a perfect storm” of the Great Recession, the graying of its work force and a collectively inadequate job of attracting new talent.

The most abundant positions his firm has been retained to fill are technicians for engines and electrical systems on the service side and engineering, design and product development on the production side.

This year’s Career Day drew about 200 job seekers, said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), which co-hosted the job fair with the International Yacht Restoration School at the IYRS’s campus in Newport.

Representatives of 47 manufacturing, marina and service companies from seven states (compared with 36 businesses last year) were on hand to discuss career opportunities with students, new graduates and career changers.

Alison Riendeau, 34, is a student in RIMTA’s semiannual six-week Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, which offers hands-on training in areas that range from safety training to skills such as carpentry, boatbuilding, marine systems, welding, composites, painting and varnishing, forklift operation and rigging.

Riendeau’s work experience includes a stint as an English-as-a-second language tutor. She attended the event to distribute her resume and discuss career opportunities.

“I grew up on the water and on boats,” the Rhode Island native said. “I’m old enough to know what I want to do and this program is a good fit for me.”

Composites and welding are among the skills she said she is interested in mastering, but she is open to anything in the field.

“I know I want to work with boats,” she said.

The pre-apprenticeship program drew 40 applicants for the winter session that ends later this month (a second session is held in the summer), nine of whom were accepted. The program boasts a 92 percent job placement rate for graduates.

“These are full-time, year-round jobs,” RIMTA director of programs Jen Cornwell said.

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