New marine industry workforce initiative announced

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From left, Connecticut marine trades association executive director Kathleen Burns, Katie Spiker of the National Skills Coalition and Cristina Crawford of The Manufacturing Institute.

From left, Connecticut marine trades association executive director Kathleen Burns, Katie Spiker of the National Skills Coalition and Cristina Crawford of The Manufacturing Institute.

WASHINGTON D.C. — The marine industry rolled out its new workforce initiative for on Wednesday, the result of a yearlong collaborative effort between the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.

The initiative, called “10+1 Strategy: A Marine Industry Guide to Growing the Workforce,” was developed to give companies clear strategies to implement on a local and national level to cultivate its workforce, said MRAA president Matt Gruhn at a workforce session during the American Boating Congress.

The MRAA conducted a study two years ago among dealers to determine how much they suffered from workforce shortages, and found that 21 percent of positions at dealerships went unfilled. Of those, 59 percent were related to service, Gruhn said.

“The projection at the time was that we’d see 31,000 jobs unfilled by 2019,” Gruhn said. “So we’re seven months away from that, and we’re in the process of recreating the study. By all accounts expect to see that number got a little bit worse.”

Endorsed by 25 national, regional and state trade associations, the “10+1 Strategy: Marine Industry Guide to Growing the Workforce” represents an industrywide business plan in the form of an all-new, instructive document designed to help address the workforce challenges currently facing the marine industry.

Commissioned as a result of a joint board meeting between the MRAA and NMMA boards of directors and authored by RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie and her team at the Rhode Island MTA, the guide features 10 specific strategies intended to cultivate a unified approach toward building our workforce, as well as a “plus 1” strategy that calls for the hiring of a national workforce coordinator to spearhead the industry efforts.

“This comprehensive, 30-page document provides action-oriented, solution-based approaches, in addition to myriad resources that we hope provide clear direction for the successful growth of our industry’s employers,” said Matt Gruhn and Thom Dammrich, presidents of the MRAA and NMMA, respectively, in a joint statement.

“Our sincere gratitude to Wendy Mackie and her team at RIMTA for dedicating their years of knowledge, expertise and understanding of the critical issues behind the workforce challenges to the creation of this plan,” they added.

Underpinning the 11 strategies are nearly 90 specific tactics and more than 20 individual resources that can be implemented and used by national, regional and state trade associations as well as industry employers. The guide seeks to serve as a roadmap for employers to begin taking matters into their own hands, wherever they are and whatever their existing support or budget limitations may be.

“This plan provides a strong response to the issues impacting our industry’s employers,” said Mackie, who is the CEO of RIMTA. “What we are most proud of is that it provides real-world, actionable solutions and empowers our employers to begin using the recommended tactics today. For boating to be successful in the economy, now and into the future, we must build a workforce that will allow for growth, success and sustainability. We believe we’ve taken an enormous step in that direction with the publishing of this guide.”

Katie Spiker, senior federal policy analyst with the National Skills Coalition, encouraged businesses to tell members of Congress that they are investing in businesses, but needs the government to invest in the worker pipeline.

“Apprenticeships are difficult and daunting to start on your own,” Spiker said during the session. “Working with community colleges can be tough. What we hear from business partners is that starting and running and convening those is difficult.”

The coalition is working to reform welfare because of the tightening labor market. “Getting people access to skills is a really important part of the conversation,” Spiker said. “We need to make sure these programs are promoting access to skills.”

The Manufacturing Institute is working on recruitment of youth, veterans and women, said Cristina Crawford, program communications associate.

Holding Manufacturing Day each year helps expose young people to manufacturing opportunities, Crawford said.

The STEP Ahead award honors women in manufacturing each year as well, highlighting their careers.

The veterans initiative, called Heroes Make America, was launched this year in Fort Riley in Kansas, and will expand to Fort Hood, Texas, she said.

“We work to place these students across manufacturing facilities across the country,” Crawford said. “We have a goal of an 85 percent job placement rate.”


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