U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was on hand for a tour of Yamaha’s Newnan, Ga., facility when Yamaha U.S. Marine president Ben Speciale and Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corp. president Mike Chrzanowski signed the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers — a “commitment to expand programs that educate, train and reskill American workers from high-school age to near-retirement.”
Workforce development has been at the forefront for marine manufacturers as they are pressed to ramp up production after a spike in demand this summer but can’t find the skilled workers.
“We want to take current technicians and improve their skill sets, then add fresh technicians,” Speciale told Trade Only Today.
The pledge is an initiative of the National Council for the American Worker. The group leads a national strategy for training and retraining workers in high-demand industries, such as recreational manufacturing.
More than 430 companies have signed the pledge, contributing to more than 16 million new training opportunities for students and workers over the next five years. Speciale said it builds on programs Yamaha has implemented to address shortages. To address out-of-date curricula at tech schools, for example, Yamaha created an apprenticeship program in 2016 that was registered by the federal government in 2017.
“Now that that’s been up and running awhile, we’re starting to see the result, but it takes time — it’s thousands of hours of training,” Speciale said. “I think in the long term, having a true apprentice program is the most important thing we do. We still need to deal with the 10,000 technicians at our dealerships, and keep their skill sets up. They need to constantly be trained to keep up with technology.”
The event at Yamaha focused on the workforce, but Speciale said those types of visits also give the marine industry an access point for other conversations with the Secretary of the Interior, whose department oversees management of the Great American Outdoors Act.
“There was a signing ceremony, but there’s more to that conversation than just pleasantries,” said Martin Peters, Yamaha senior manager of marine communications and government relations. “You get at the character of the secretary — he’s very down to earth — and it was very easy to have conversations with him that were productive, particularly regarding the Great American Outdoor Act and how it gets implemented. It was a very productive visit from the perspective of being able to have that kind of conversation.”
Speciale and Peters hope the marine industry will engage in implementing the Great American Outdoor Act so that as much funding as possible will go toward such infrastructure as boat ramps and parking areas, which help create more access points.
“Our work on the Hill is important,” Speciale said. “It creates those connection points.”
It also helped give the marine industry leverage while the Modern Fish Act is being implemented, said Speciale, who met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at Maverick Boats in May. The Department of Commerce oversees the rollout of the Modern Fish Act, and the Center for Sportfishing Policy has been tracking the implementation to see that it goes the way the industry had hoped.
“We need to play offense and make sure it gets done at a tactical level,” Speciale said. “It’s still very early on, but what we need to do as an industry is ensure our needs are met through the act, and make sure the act is being implemented properly.