An innovative public-private partnership in Northwest
Washington is training workers in the latest methods of building yachts. The
program helps assure the region's custom boat manufacturers remain
competitive both locally and internationally.
"The training provided by this partnership is addressing a critical skills gap and
helping our company become a model for others in the business," said Wes
Fridell, human resources manager for Northern Marine. The Anacortes
company builds custom yachts priced in the millions for those with a desire
The partnership was formed after company officials at Northern Marine
approached local colleges and workforce agencies in the WorkSource system
with the need to upgrade the skills of current workers and to enhance skills of
workers coming into the business. A recent survey showed local boat
manufacturers expect to hire as many as 300 workers in the coming year.
Yet, there have been few opportunities for workers to learn the specialized
skills needed to work in the field.
The Northwest Workforce Development Council received
a $213,000 grant
from the Washington State Employment Security Department to develop
training to meet the needs of Northern Marine and other boat manufacturers.
The funds were used to create a comprehensive training program, develop
assessments to measure workers' competency in the new skills, and establish
curriculum to teach other instructors how to replicate the training elsewhere.
Northern Marine matched the grant with in-kind donations that include paying
wages to workers while they were in training.
"We identified a huge need for training that covered the skills needed in boat
manufacturing, as well as the latest technologies," said project manager
Dolores Blueford, of the Northwest Workforce Development Council. "We
formed a partnership to provide opportunities for workers to gain skills needed
to earn better wages and become more productive, thereby allowing local
businesses to be more competitive and profitable."
Northern Marine, Skagit Valley College, and the Northwest Workforce
Development Council collaborated to create the courses, which will ultimately
include modules in safety, electrical, carpentry and resin infusion lamination.
Classes are taught at Northern Marine. Since July, approximately 150 workers
have participated. They receive industry certification for each module they
Northern Marine officials
are most excited about the resin infusion training,
which will be offered in the early part of next year. Company President
Richard "Bud" LeMieux said the new technology is safer than traditional
fiberglass lamination processes and more environmentally friendly. Northern
Marine introduced resin infusion into its processes last year. But until now, no
adequate training was available in this production process.