A new marine industry careers exhibit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has opened to attract young people to the industry.

The maritime community brings an estimated $12 billion a year and 142,000 jobs to South Florida. But as in other regions of the U.S. it faces an aging workforce, not enough new workers coming in, and difficulty finding and retaining skilled labor.

Understanding the need to keep the industry thriving with a new generation of workers, Advanced Mechanical Enterprises/AMESolutions.com, Fort Lauderdale, and 23 other marine industry companies joined forces with Junior Achievement of South Florida to open the Marine Industry Storefront, “Sea the World,” in the Patten Family Finance Park located at the JA World Huizenga Center at the Lillian S. Well Pavilion.

The 'storefront' display introduces students to career opportunities in the marine industry. Advanced Mechanical Enterprises photo

The 'storefront' display introduces students to career opportunities in the marine industry. Advanced Mechanical Enterprises photo

Every year more than 20,000 eighth grade students from Broward and south Palm Beach counties attend sessions at the center to learn how financial decisions will impact their lives. These include expenses related to family health care, real estate and home improvements, automobiles, insurance, entertainment, education, and purchasing items such as clothing, furniture and groceries.

“As an owner/operator of a small business invested in the maritime world, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to find skilled labor to meet our business growth,” said Christine Battles, chief analytics officer of Advanced Mechanical Enterprises/AMEsolutions.com.

“Our industry is a gold mine of opportunities for the next generation. I’ve made a personal commitment to inspire their interest in our field, which, will in turn, maintain the maritime industry as a thriving economic force in the state. Our JA storefront is a major step towards fulfilling this initiative,” said Battles.

Sea the World is composed of nine walls representing engine room specialists, yachting professionals, shipyard trade workers and other areas like marina management, boat sales and boat building.

Before they visit JA Finance Park, students engage in a comprehensive classroom curriculum that teaches them about finances, careers, income, expenses, savings and credit. This program helps students recognize that their education decisions affect their career options and have an impact on their potential income and quality of life.

At the end of the classroom instruction, students visit JA Finance Park and put what they learned into action by managing a real world inspired personal budget based on local careers in a simulated city. Students are guided by trained volunteers.

To create the Sea the World storefront, Advanced Mechanical Enterprises/AMEsolutions.com worked with 23 companies to raise over $130,000 for the buildout and curriculum development: Maritime Professional Training, Pier 66 Marina, The Triton newspaper, IGY Marinas, Marine Industries Association of South Florida, Palladium Technologies LLC, Aere Marine Group, FB Marine Group, Derecktor Shipyards, Global Marine Travel, Lauderdale Marine Center, Luxury Home Consultants, AdvantageServices.Net, MHG Insurance Brokers, Palmdale Oil Company, RPM Diesel Engines Co., Viking Crew, Ward’s Marine Electric, Water Taxi, Wright Maritime Group, Roscioli Yachting Center, Elite Marine AC and Universal Marine Center.

Those sponsors are now transitioning into phase 2 of the execution process which will possibly involve custom boat tables, piling with rope, a fighting chair, and other marine themed elements to complete the look and feel of the Marine Industry Storefront. The display was unveiled at a reception May 1, and sponsors are planning a 10-year commitment to the project.