MRAA survey seeks data on workforce shortage

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is launching a workforce assessment survey.
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People in the marine industry have been hearing anecdotally that there is a shortage of skilled workers, but to date there has been no data to make the case.

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is launching a workforce assessment survey in an effort to collect hard data on shortages faced by all facets of the industry.

The shortage became clear to MRAA president Matt Gruhn at a meeting with Minneapolis-area dealers where it was evident that three or four were competing over one technician looking for a job in the region.

“A couple weeks ago I was in Wisconsin at a technical college to present a scholarship our foundation gave out, and their students are getting hired by dealers before they graduate,” Gruhn told Trade Only Today. “We’re watching this happen, number one, schools can’t get enough students, and number two, the students they’re getting are getting snatched up quickly by dealers staying in touch with schools.”

“We need to find ways to foster growth of our workforce and bring some excitement to the technical side of this trade,” Gruhn said.

“When it comes to the technician shortage in our industry, we have plenty of anecdotal examples to share,” MRAA vice president Liz Walz said in a statement. “But we need to get a firmer grasp on the extent of the challenges marine retailers are facing and what’s driving them so we can focus our programs and benefits on the most effective solutions. Today there is little data to define this problem, and the survey will help us change that.”

“Prior to the recession the lack of qualified technicians had become a widespread problem,” Walz said. “But with 35 percent of the dealer body forced to close their doors during the downturn, the urgency to develop solutions faded until recently. Now that boat sales have been growing at a consistent rate, we find ourselves facing the same problem again, this time nearing a crisis level.”

The five-minute survey, available here, should help give a clearer picture of how dire the crisis is.

“We have an incredible industry to work for, and people who come to it end up loving it,” Gruhn said. “We’ve just done a terrible job as a society of communicating the importance of vocational jobs — careers where hands get dirty. Imagine having a career working on boats and fixing boats for a living. We really need to put a focus on it as an industry, and we’re hoping this assessment can help.”

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