We’ve Got Jobs: Marinas Turn to Schools for Skilled Workforce
By Anthony F. Hall
Thursday, January 5, 2012
In this section of upstate New York, where the unemployment rate is roughly 7%, finding employees shouldn’t be difficult. But according to the managers of Lake George marinas, it’s not only difficult, it’s almost impossible.
“Every one is in dire need of help, especially skilled help,” said Bob Palandrani, Jr, the owner of Snug Harbor marina in Ticonderoga. “When we can find people, they’re often at square one as far as training and experience go. We have to do the training, which is lengthy and expensive.”
The need for skilled, waterfront employees has led local school superintendents, the marina owners and their trade group, the Eastern New York Marine Trades Association, to push for a specialized vocational program.
“The marinas told us, ‘we need people now’,” said Ticonderoga school superintendent John McDonald. “We’d like to have a two year, marine technician program available to students by September, 2012.”
Ticonderoga High School would host the new program, which would be co-ordinated through two BOCES districts and taught by qualified instructors recruited by BOCES.
The program is expected to draw students from as far south as Lake George and as far north as Crown Point.
According to John McDonald, Ticonderoga used to offer marine technician training through a program taught at Snug Harbor by Bob Palandrani Sr.
“That ended about ten years ago, when the expense of the program, and the difficulty of holding it off-site, became too great,” said McDonald. “When we built a new facility here that could accommodate the program, we decided to see if we could revive it.”
Earlier this year, McDonald polled marina owners and spoke at a meeting of the Eastern New York Marine Trades Association.
“Fifty marina managers and boat dealers were asked if they thought the program would be valuable, and fifty responded positively,” said Bob Palandrani,Jr, who also serves on Ticonderoga’s Board of Education.
A committee composed of Palandrani, Rich Solen of Loon Lake Marina, Scott Andersen of F.R. Smith & Sons and Roger Phinney, the executive director of the Eastern New York Marine Trades Association, was organized to help establish the program.
The group visited similar programs throughout New York State and discussed ways to make a high school program an even more comprehensive one.
“Scott Andersen took the bull by the horns and approached the manufacturers and asked them if they’d be willing to help make this program a certified training program for their engines,” said Palandrani.
No manufacturer offers certification programs anywhere within easy commuting distance of Lake George, said Palandrani.
“If the manufacturers get on board, a student could leave here certified to service a Yamaha, Mercury, Volvo or Evinrude,” said Roger Phinney.
By providing equipment and technology in exchange for the training offered by the program, the manufacturers could help reduce the costs of operating the program, said Phinney.
According to Phinney, a minimum of thirteen students is needed before the program can start.
In November, Phinney, Palandrani, Andersen and Solen brought boats and engines to Ticonderoga High School to meet with students and to encourage them to consider registering for the program.
“This will be hands-on training,” Scott Andersen told one group. “We’re not going to just tell you about this engine. You’ll learn to take it apart and put it back together. You’ll learn by doing, from backing up trailers to loading and unloading boats.”
A qualified technician can make roughly $40,000 a year and a service or sales manager can expect to make $75,000 a year, Bob Palandrani said.
“Our new service manager graduated from the original program twelve years ago,” said Palandrani. “He worked his way up from dock boy, learning his skills along the way.
According to Roger Phinney, the student will learn more than a trade; he’ll acquire skills that will serve him well no matter what he does.
“We want them to come out with the basics of the trade, but we also want to teach them life skills that will be of value to any employer,” Phinney said.
Local school boards and superintendents are lining up behind the program, said Shari Brannock, a superintendent from Crown Point.
“It opens up other avenues for our kids; my board definitely supports it,” she said.
Ticonderoga will host another information session for superintendents, principals and students interested in the program in March. Anyone interested in participating should contact Roger Phinney at 791-0070 or John McDonald at 585-7442.
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