The State of the Marine Industry Workforce

marine industry events

marketing planForget millennials – we should be courting an even younger generation to fill the gap for future workers in the boating industry

There’s a huge thought that’s been on my mind the last few months, and after visiting IBEX, I feel as if I need to address it. Should our main focus really be on millennials for the workforce in our industry?

I am a millennial (30 years old) and I believe we are targeting the wrong group to fulfill our employment gap. The millennials age group is 20-36. Most of the older millennials already have college under their belt, a career and a family.

If the younger millennials are in college for a specific career, would it be reasonable for them to switch their major and school at that point, especially if they are going into major debt to gain that degree?

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Targeting the Right Generation

I believe that we need to focus on Generation Z for our future workforce – the ones who are currently attending Pre-K through High School (with the focus on high school, obviously). All marine companies need to get in touch with high schools and find a way to target those teens all the way up to career and graduation day. I have read articles on industry websites where some companies are already taking the initiative to do this very thing.

Dealerships who sell to families with kids and teens need to find some way to get them more involved in boating (activities throughout the year), so there’s a possible interest of those wanting to be in the industry. Not only that, but when the money is earned to make a big purchase, they will want to spend it with you.

I realize this is easier said than done, because it’s already becoming really hard to get anyone to look away from their electronics these days, let alone enjoy a day without it.

That’s why I feel that we need to go back to the basics of this industry—it’s all about the experience. If provided an experience of a lifetime—with or without technology—there’s a sure bet they’ll be hooked, and for life.

Teach them to be the lifestyle

Building on Workforce Skills

So what about the millennials? They’ll be used for their current skills—filling roles as administrative, general employees, marketing, sales or higher up management. However, noting that it should never be discouraged if they wanted to become skilled technicians or something where they would need certificates and technical training.

As an industry, we really need to reach out to the Baby Boomers and Generation X before they retire. They are the ones who hold the most skills and knowledge. We need a program that allows them to earn money (or some other deal) in exchange for teaching and mentoring the new employees.

For example, we could send a few master skilled techs to cover several areas of a state to hold one-on-one private sessions, a class or a week’s long program for all younger techs at the service departments in their assigned area. If the business has been around for many years—there is a secret—and the key to our future lies in the wisdom of the past.

In addition, our industry would benefit greatly from those who are interested in environmental and marine studies that keeps the water clean, the ocean animals safe, and to help the world become more environmental friendly.

It should be encouraged to partner up with students or teachers in these roles to spread the education of fuel issues, safe fishing/boating and anything marine related that gets looked at by the legislation.

Last but not least, I truly believe that our industry’s employment gap will be bridged if we start getting attention from the youngest generation right from the start. Once we do that, everything else will follow.

Karen Maeby Bates

View posts by Karen Maeby Bates
Karen Maeby—a marine industry employee—is making her mark as Boat Show Girl after freely attending boat shows for 4 years. She appears on World of Boating radio show frequently to talk about her adventures, as well as writing on her blog.
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