About 100 people turned out Saturday for Marine Trades Day at the Melville Marine Complex in Portsmouth, R.I., where 13 companies opened their doors for tours and discussions.
Though not a "job fair," several companies at the complex, including The Hinckley Co., Hunt Yachts and New England Boat Works, sought to connect with potential qualified candidates - and encourage others to become qualified - for when jobs return.
"It's the perfect time to go to school, because when things come around in a couple of years, there will be jobs," said Carol Dietz, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association's Education and Training Committee, which organized the event.
Last year, some 230 people attended a similar event held in Bristol, R.I. Last weekend's cold, cloudy, windy weather from an approaching nor'easter likely kept people at home, Dietz said.
David Frank, New England director for Hinckley Yacht Services, took a group of four on a tour through the shop, touting the industry's advances in technology and potential for career advancement. He noted that Hinckley was forced to lay off workers for the first time since 2001.
"I would think that next spring, if the economy turns around a little, we'll have more work, and we'll start hiring," Frank said.
Other builders echoed that optimism.
Ray Hunt, director of manufacturing and engineering with Hunt Yachts, says the company endured one six-month stretch without selling a boat but recently sold three in three weeks.
"We're not really hiring yet, but we are hoping to ramp up soon," Hunt said, while giving a tour of the shop as a crew worked on a new Harrier 36.
A more in-depth report on the event will be published in the December issue of Soundings Trade Only.
— Rich Armstrong