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Marine conference focuses on workforce development

Randall Lyons, Ed Lofgren, Larry Russo, and MMTA president Adam Cooper, who also serves as GM for Russo MarineMax.

Randall Lyons, Ed Lofgren, Larry Russo, and MMTA president Adam Cooper, who also serves as GM for Russo MarineMax.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The most important thing to employees is not what supervisors think, and that is part of the reason managers have a hard time attracting and training talent.

That’s according to Jim Million, one of many speakers at the Massachusetts Marine Trade Association conference on Thursday, who said that employees want to be appreciated for a job well done.

“As a leader, you have to give your people reason to do something,” said Million.

Sen. Don Humason Jr. was presented with the Legislator of the Year Award for helping the industry receive $100,000 for workforce training and development. He encouraged attendees to reach out to members of Congress to start a conversation with them.

“He is the reason we got $100,000 for workforce development, and he’s the reason we have bipartisan support,” said Jamy Buchanan Madeja, Esq., MMTA's legal and government relations council.

Ed Lofgren of 3A Marine Center was given the Frank Farrell Award for his “tireless commitment to workforce development” since joining the industry in 1964, said Larry Russo of Russo MarineMax in introducing the award.

“It’s a large surprise,” said Lofgren. “I was wondering why Larry and I weren’t working on an honoree this year. It’s a great honor and great privilege to accept this award. I do so on your behalf, on behalf of the industry as a whole, MMTA and educational trust, and my employees.”

Lofgren recalled the year he opened his marine dealership — he was a teacher by day and sold boats at night.

“Those were some trying times,” said Lofgren. “Don’t lose focus on that. The bad times are good times.”

Lofgren also spoke about the New Bedford Votech program that the MMTA Educational Trust hopes to duplicate across the state.

“We want to take this to another level with advanced secondary training,” said Lofgren. “We have a few schools already — The Landing School and NEIT [New England Institute of Technology], but we need more. We’re so short. We know it’s affecting your business.”

The MMTA Educational Trust is providing education and training, and offering scholarships to those that need assistance, said Lofgren.

Keynote speaker and American Boat & Yacht Council president John Adey gave a brief state-of-the-industry address.

“It’s hard for us to figure out our membership model as the industry continues to consolidate,” said Adey. “This is a big concern for us and the rest of the industry as well. It’s a thing we have to navigate and get through.”

Adey moderated a panel discussion with ABYC education vice president Ed Sherman, Lofgren, and NEIT education and training vice president Steve Kitchin that also focused on workforce development.

“I really don’t know how we do a better job in marketing our industry other than, we should probably show what fun you can have in this industry,” said Lofgren. “I’ve really enjoyed my 50 or 60 years in our industry. That would be my message to educators. This is a profession and industry you can really get into and enjoy.”

There is also a growing teacher shortage, particularly in STEM classes, said Kitchin.

To address that, ABYC is launching a “Train the Trainer” program in Annapolis this summer to help train instructors, said Sherman.

“We’ve had situations where administrators were waiting for people to retire so they could hire people to teach relevant content to today’s world,” said Sherman. “Teachers are going to teach what they’re most comfortable with themselves and that’s one of the challenges when trying to cover a comprehensive curriculum.”

Sherman says the Train the Trainer concept would be a multi-day course. “We want to teach not only how to become a better teacher, but also provide some technical content that would get teachers up to date with the latest that’s going on, and give a snapshot into what they need to do better,” he said. 

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