Sound familiar? From deckhands to towboat pilots to welders, it seems that workboat-related companies are always on the hunt to find good workers.
I noticed this when I first started covering this industry over two decades ago. Back then you could argue that some vessel operators and shipyards needed to improve pay, benefits, working conditions, etc. For the most part, that is no longer an issue. While the tough working conditions and lifestyle, especially if you work on a boat and are away from your family for weeks at a time, have always been there, many people in the industry say that today’s younger pool of workers are “softer.”
Still, many of these jobs pay well and offer a clear path for advancement.
In the August issue, WorkBoat correspondent Mike Crowley tackled the issue of finding and training good welders. Shipyards around the country deal with the same problem: They don’t have enough skilled people to perform the work. One reason, many say, is the lack of vocational training at the high school level.
But shipyards such as Washburn & Doughty, Blount Boats and Vigor Industrial are doing what they can to address the welder void. Washburn & Doughty hired a consultant that was involved in the local community college’s terminated welding program. With Rhode Island’s New England Institute of Technology, which received a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant, Blount was able to put together a training program for aluminum welders. Vigor has partnered up with community colleges to offer a six-month intensive welding program, with most students landing a job right after graduation.
The skilled worker problem still persists, but initiatives such as these offer hope. Tell me what your companies are doing to train and retain qualified welders and mariners, and I’ll try to include it in an upcoming blog.