Academics

New program to train much-needed marine technicians

Florida’s recreational marine and boating industry is growing at a fast clip, making it hard to fill job openings for marine mechanics and service technicians. Now Palm Beach State College stands ready to deliver these sought-after job candidates by launching the first technical certificate program of its kind in Palm Beach County.

Classes for PBSC’s new Marine Service Technology program start Aug. 22, and anyone interested in enrolling should attend the information session on Wednesday, Aug. 7, from 5 – 6:30 p.m. in room ETD 103 of the Education and Training Center on the Lake Worth campus.

Program graduates will be ready to work in marine dealerships, boat repair shops and yacht maintenance facilities. Through a partnership with the American Boat and Yacht Council, PBSC will offer a comprehensive curriculum designed to train marine service technicians according to national industry standards and practices. Students will gain hands-on experience in labs and on boats and receive a Postsecondary Adult Vocational certificate for completing the 1350 clock-hour program, which takes 14 months of full-time day classes, or 16 months of evening classes. Graduates also leave the program with ABYC student certification.

“By integrating ABYC’s industry standards-based curriculum with our Florida state framework, we’ll be able to offer the best possible program to our students, the future marine technicians Palm Beach County greatly needs,” said Eligio Marquez, Jr., PBSC’s Transportation Technology program director.

The expanding marine industry in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties had an estimated economic impact of $12 billion in 2018, an increase from $11.5 billion in 2014, according to a recent study by Thomas J. Murray and Associates, provided by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County. This growth translates to a 2018 total of 32,323 employees in marine services in the tri-county area and reinforces Marquez’s confidence in his graduates finding jobs quickly.

Incoming students Richard Vincent and Bailey Drake spend time with Stephen Spencer, a Marine Service Technology instructor with 30 years experience in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served as a master chief machinery technician.

“This program came out of a series of meetings that we had with the Riviera Beach Workforce Development Taskforce,” Marquez added. “They asked Palm Beach State to create a marine program because of the high demand and necessity to have a program in our own backyard.”

Charlie Navis and Andrew Holley, co-owners of Boat Connection, a long-established West Palm Beach boat sales and service company, donated two of the boats that the students will work on, as well as engines and other parts. They also are members of the program’s business partnership council, which will help keep the program aligned to local industry needs and trends.

Navis likes the ABYC curriculum and looks forward to the program graduates entering the job market. Due to the shortage of applicants with motorboat training, Navis has tried recruiting people with related experience, which hasn’t always worked out.

“A lot of them are car mechanics that want to get into the marine industry, and it’s not the same by any means,” Navis said. “So, to actually have a school that’s local, that has the capability of putting out job candidates who are good—that will be great for us. And I know some of the other shops in the area are in the same boat as we are, so to speak!”

Recently, some of the incoming students got an advance look at PBSC’s Marine Service Technology program lab. They are attracted by the job growth in this field, which pays motorboat mechanics and service technicians in the tri-county area a median salary of $47,950, with top salaries reaching $72,190, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics Program.

Faith Flynn

“I’ve worked around boats and on boats my whole life, said newly enrolled student Faith Flynn, a 2019 Jupiter High School graduate who works part time at West Marine. “Working on yachts is a big thing for me. I’d like to travel, and you can do that with this career. The opportunities the marine industry gives you, specifically after completing this program, can take me a long way.”

Other new students include Bailey Drake and Richard Vincent.

Drake, another Jupiter High School graduate, recently helped repair a cargo ship in New Zealand, while doing missionary work there, and found it was a natural fit. “I’ve always wanted to do engineering but put it on the back burner. On the ship, it just kind of clicked again. I’m excited to get an education in this field so I can pursue this work on medical relief ships.”

Vincent, a Marine Corps veteran and John I. Leonard High School graduate, will enter the program fresh from Palm Beach State’s Automotive Service Technology program. “With the automotive program, I found I was mechanically inclined, but I like the ocean—fresh water, too—and enjoy being outdoors. As soon as I found out that they were creating a marine technician program here, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Visit the Marine Service Technology website for more information or call 561-868-3866 or 3542.

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