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New ways to float your boat in the Bay State.

There was a time, long ago, when some of our childhood friends became young marine apprentices, working in the historic boatyards of Southeastern Massachusetts. Indeed, our contemporaries can remember the old connotation of a "marine tech"--read as, recreational outboard mechanic--low pay, low tech, low self-esteem and virtually no educational attainment aspiration. For sure, times have changed in the marine trades and technology industries.

Paradoxical though it may seem, the fields of marine trades and technology may well have never changed were it not for increased regulatory requirements governing pollution, coastal protection, energy conservation, safety and the calibration of fuels, compression and emissions for boating.

Today, the marine trades industry has emerged as a more sophisticated, rigorously prepared career path--with significant technical education and training requirements. These contemporary certificate and degree programs increasingly offer credit for hands-on, learning-by-doing experiences at marine trades and technology worksites throughout the Bay State.

Over the past 25 years, we have witnessed compensation for marine trades shift from as low as $8.00 per hour to as high as $80.00 per hour today for talented, independent marine tech contractors. Leaving aside the inflation differential, this change for the better has been seismic when viewed against contemporary marine trades careers in the fields of electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems.

The Massachusetts recreational marine economy is one of the most vibrant in the United States. The state has nearly 1,500 miles of coastline, 2,700 square miles of inland waters and roughly 1,260 marine trade businesses. Beyond commercial fishing and coastal protection, Massachusetts' recreational boaters generate nearly $1.5 billion for the Bay State's economy. Importantly, the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association's 2004 survey projected 1,600 good-paying technician job openings over the next few years.

"Recreational marine trades are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States with more than 75 million Americans participating in boating and spending over $30 billion annually. Clearly, the greatest need in the industry is for full-time, qualified technicians to service boats and marine power units, and this critical shortage has caused pay scales and benefits to soar. Working on boats can be a fun and satisfying career choice. And many of these jobs are recession proof--if they are not buying, they are 'fixing,'" according to Ed Lofgren, owner of 3A Marine Service Inc., and education committee chairperson for MMTA.

Massasoit Community College, in Brockton, is one Massachusetts college with a marine technology program. With two campuses along the South Shore of Massachusetts, Massasoit has established itself as a statewide, regional and national leader in marine-based workforce development, marine tech applied learning and marine apprenticeship training. Under the direction of president Charles Wall, Massasoit has recently hosted a series of campus visits with prospective partners in the advancement and management of Massachusetts' marine trade education, including the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and Eastern Nazarene College.

Most recently, Massasoit has partnered with MMTA in designing a 45-hour non-credit certificate course for dislocated mid-career workers seeking to enter the recreational marina business. In addition to career changers, the Marine Trades and Technology program also caters to younger, traditional-age students--including more women than ever expected. Importantly, the program also serves returners--that is, returning students looking for new career opportunities in the South Shore's indigenous marine trades industry. By positioning the college's programs and partners to nimbly respond to fast-paced changes in marine tech core competencies and skills, Massasoit has reached out to South Shore marine businesses.

More than ever before, marine industry leaders say that there is a significant need for competent technologists who understand the latest marine technologies, yet can also think critically about troubleshooting, customer relations, management, marketing, quality control, inventory, planning and value-added restoration. These so-called "soft skills" are inextricably bound up in the career preparation and educational attainment expectations of leading marine industry employers. The mastery of these types of soft skills ensures much higher wages than in decades past.

The Education Alliance is a national higher education consulting firm and serves as a consultant to Massasoit Community, College and other Massachusetts community colleges.

Dr. James E. Samels

President and CEO

The Education Alliance

Framingham, Mass.

Dr. James Martin

Academic Vice President

The Education Alliance

Framingham, Mass.
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Title Annotation:point of view
Author:Samels, James E.; Martin, James
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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