Training in a Pandemic

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Students from Palm Beach State College social distance while watching one of ABYC’s free webinars.

Students from Palm Beach State College social distance while watching one of ABYC’s free webinars.

With the rise in new-boat sales, having enough workers to provide service will be critical to retention, according to Margaret Podlich, executive director of the American Boat & Yacht Council Foundation, which has been stepping up virtual training during the pandemic.

Podlich said the need for technicians is even greater than it was a year ago, when there were thousands of unfilled service positions, because of an influx of new boaters.

“We’ve got people now into boats that may not have been into boats in the past, but they’re bringing customer service expectations from rest of their life to all their experiences, including boats,” Podlich told Trade Only Today. “They are used to a car that works. They are used to having a loaner car when they take their car in for service, and they are used to very professional service and repairs.”

ABYC and the ABYC Foundation are focusing on training for existing technicians, as well as creating an on-ramp for entry-level techs, she said.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread through U.S. communities, many teachers in technical schools and high schools reached out to ABYC for help. “So we scrambled to see how we could help,” Podlich said.

ABYC partnered with Active Interest Media, the parent company of Soundings Trade Only, to provide a platform for the textbook Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology through AIM’s Boaters University.

ABYC also published a student workbook to bolster the marine service technology program with additional tools during the pandemic, including homework exercises, hands-on job assignments and links to video demonstrations.

There are 14 schools using the online textbook since it was announced in April, and 44 schools are using ABYC’s Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology curriculum, Podlich said.

Absent hands-on training, tech schools are turning to ABYC for online resources.

Absent hands-on training, tech schools are turning to ABYC for online resources.

“With the free online textbook this spring, we nearly doubled the number of schools using the ABYC Fundamentals textbook for their marine service students,” she said.

Now the foundation is looking for companies that have how-to videos to help boost online resources, Podlich said.

“Teachers will need a lot more support and resources,” she said. “We’re really trying to cheer on instructors and help them know what resources are available to them.”

Some of the videos ABYC has collected aren’t marine-specific; some that address wiring and weight distribution came from truck drivers, Podlich said.

“I am actively looking for industry videos and tours from an industry perspective — any existing content companies may be willing to share to help teach about a particular element of boating,” she said. “They may have internal videos they’d be willing to share to help teachers provide a virtual guest speaker to the class, or maybe a mini factory tour.

“To me it’s really exciting,” Podlich added. “It’s an opportunity for the industry, and not just an initial recruitment and sales opportunity. It’s an opportunity to provide enough overall customer satisfaction to keep that customer in boating.”

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