RIMTA to Launch Marine Apprenticeship Programs

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) has received state approval and grant monies from the Governor’s Workforce Board RI to launch a pre-apprenticeship and an apprenticeship program for the state’s marine trades. Both programs are the first of their kind for Rhode Island’s marine industry and a critical core of the workforce-development pipeline being developed by RIMTA and its industry partners. Rhode Island is among the first states to put these training programs into place for the marine industry.

“Obtaining state approval and funding from the Governor’s Workforce Board is a huge and exciting step forward for our entire industry,” says Wendy Mackie, CEO of RIMTA. “These programs complete the workforce-development pipeline our industry needs to grow and thrive. Not only are these programs a sound foundation for the Rhode Island marine trades: they also open up opportunity for individuals looking to build careers in this industry that is so important to the Ocean State.”

The Governor’s Workforce Board RI has awarded $142,788 to RIMTA to create the Rhode Island Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program. This grant was part of $1.97 million in Innovative Partnership grants awarded by the Governor’s Workforce Board RI to bring employers and educational providers together to develop career opportunities for students, out-of-school youth, and unemployed or underemployed adults.

The pre-apprenticeship program will consist of 205 hours of training for individuals who are 18 years and older and give participants a pathway to paid employment in an entry-level position, or to post-secondary or apprenticeship training.

Working with educational and employer partners such as IYRS, the New England Institute of Technology, and Hinckley Yachts, the program will give participants hands-on skills training in several entry-level areas, including: painting, varnishing, composites, hauling, rigging, fork and travel lift operation, shrink wrapping, and winterizing & commissioning. Participants will also receive training in safety procedures, knot tying, tool handling, industry terminology, and overall job-readiness skills. Five Rhode Island companies have already committed to hiring available candidates for job openings, to ensure this program leads to real jobs.

The Rhode Island State Apprenticeship Council now recognizes the marine trades as having a certified apprentice program. The seeds for the program were planted when Guy Gauvin, the product of an apprenticeship program himself who is now yard manager at The Hinckley Company in Portsmouth, looked at the skilled tradesmen working at his yard: the vast majority of his workers were past age 40 and some 85 percent would be retiring within fifteen years. And Hinckley was not an isolated phenomenon. Working in partnership with RIMTA, Hinckley decided to turn their graying workforce into a positive by developing a program where younger workers could learn alongside master journeymen. Although the apprenticeship model is common in the boating business in places such as New Zealand, it is a rarity for the United States.

The Rhode Island Marine Trades Apprenticeship Training Program will be a joint partnership between the State of Rhode Island, RIMTA, local private and public education institutions, marine trades companies, and, most importantly, the apprentice. Individual apprentices will develop their skills while on the job and have an opportunity to train in a variety of areas, including: carpentry, rigging, electronics, electrical engineering, painting, and other areas. The term of an individual’s apprenticeship can range between two and five years, depending on the area(s) they choose to specialize in.

Hinckley will be the first company to accept apprenticeship applicants, and the first group of applicants will begin their training in January 2014; Hinckley will accept up to six apprentices every six months. Other employers have already expressed interest in joining the program, and RIMTA expects to have additional employers in place within the next 12 months. Ideal candidates will be those who are 18 or older and have some exposure to the trades, or are graduates of marine training schools such as New England Tech and IYRS.

Industry-specific high school programs are already in place in Rhode Island and will act as feeders to the applicant pool for both apprenticeship programs. These include marine trades programs at Warwick Area Career and Technical Center and Chariho Career and Technical Center. “Career Techs are working with industry to close the skills gap,” says Bill McCaffrey, director of Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.

Applications for the Marine Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program will be posted at the RIMTA website in mid-April. They will also be available at Youth Centers and Career Centers throughout the state. Completed applications will be due by the end of May. The first cycle of the program is slated to begin in mid-July 2013 with 10 participants; the second cycle will run in February 2014 with an additional 10 participants.

Applications for the Marine Trades Apprenticeship Training Program will be posted at the RIMTA website in September 2013. They will also be available at Youth Centers and Career Centers throughout the state. Completed applications will be due in late October for applicants who hope to start at Hinckley in January 2014. Hinckley will accept up to six applicants every six months; other employers in the state are expected to join the program within the year.

For more information, potential applicants can contact RIMTA’s Workforce Development Coordinator Jen Cornwell; click here to email her directly.