The Michigan School of Boatbuilding & Marine Technology is set to launch in northern Michigan later this year.
"There isn't another program like this in the Midwest," founder Dave Lesh told Trade Only Today in an e-mail. "There is a real need for skilled, well-rounded employees in the composite industries (including marine), marinas, etc. Obviously the market is soft, but our research shows that employers will continue to seek these types of workers."
The school, which will be affiliated with Petoskey, Mich.-based North Central Michigan College, is on schedule to launch a career composites program in September, Lesh said. The program will run for nine months and students will have an opportunity to pursue either a one-year certificate or an associate's degree through the school's partnership with the community college.
Students seeking a degree will be able to take core courses at the college while they go through the boatbuilding program. Hands-on training is expected to be an important part of the marine program, Lesh added.
"The Michigan School of Boat Building and Marine Technology will, through classroom instruction, lectures, internships and hands-on technical projects in the workshop, teach the skills, business, art and science of composite construction, marine systems and wooden boatbuilding and restoration necessary for employment opportunities in the marine industry, including those at marinas, maritime museums, boat restoration and re-engineering businesses and custom and production boatbuilding companies," according to the school's mission statement.
The school also will serve the community with weekend, after-school/youth and summer boatbuilding workshops that teach, promote and preserve the art and tradition of wood boatbuilding.
The goal is to launch the program with at least eight full-time students in September, but Lesh said he is prepared to move forward with fewer. There are plans to roll out a career marine systems program in September 2012.
Lesh said much of his professional background has been in illustration, marketing, graphic design and creative consulting, but he has had a lifelong passion for boating.
He worked at Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs, Mich., in 2003 and was the executive director of the Great Lakes Boat Building School from its beginning in 2006 until September 2010. He was responsible for working with North Central Michigan College administrators to establish an agreement between the college and the boatbuilding school.
He also worked with Michigan lawmakers on a law that now allows proprietary schools in the state to sell the products (boat projects) that students build.