Boatworks 101 Brings All on Board for Apprenticeship

Boatworks 101 Apprentice
Boatworks 101 Apprentice

Recreational boating is big business in the San Francisco Bay area, and the boatyards maintaining the boats cannot find enough skilled workers. To meet this need, Boatworks 101, a Registered Youth Apprenticeship program sponsored by Spaulding Marine Center, was created to train the next generation of marine maintenance technicians. Spaulding’s president, Bill Edinger, conceived the program in response to the regional industry’s skill shortage.

As boat options grow beyond rowboats and dinghies to sailboats, wooden boats, and antiques, maintenance grows progressively more complex. Technicians must, therefore, be able to work with many different systems and materials: electrical wiring, marine instruments, painting, welding and fabrication, fiberglass and other composites, gasoline and diesel engines, marine plumbing, sailboat rigging, and more. One attraction of the occupation is that technicians can specialize in one or more of these aspects and earn a higher income.

Boatworks apprentices begin with nine months of instruction and work experience at the Spaulding Marine Center, where they complete a curriculum produced by the American Boat and Yacht Council, leading to industry certification. The program is registered with both the U.S. Department of Labor and the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards. After the Spaulding boatyard was passed to the founder’s heirs, it became a nonprofit organization and added a marine museum and training center to its continuing work servicing boats. Half a dozen additional boatyard owners quickly joined as partners and participated in the planning. Their duties include hosting apprentice visits, and sharing responsibility for providing further on-the-job training over an additional six-month training period, as apprentices move to a new worksite every month to gain more diverse experiences. This program also gives employers and apprentices a chance to know one another before making or accepting a job offer. Spaulding will remain the employer of record, and the partners pay for the apprentices’ compensation.

Boating is an expensive recreational sport, all but unknown in diverse low-income communities and largely comprised of the daughters and sons of boatowners. Boatworks recruits widely to assure its apprentices represent the region’s population, opening the way to an occupation where general workers in the region earn a median income of nearly $53,000 and specialists can earn much more. In addition to working on boats in the yard, the apprentices have a chance to take excursions on the water and jointly build a small wooden boat.

The goal of the Boatworks youth apprenticeship is to help apprentices acquire a diverse skill set, qualifying them for initial employment and setting the stage for further specialization. According to Jay Grant, the lead instructor, the most important skills they learn are how to solve problems and ask for advice. Apprentice Sidney Wewerka said she appreciates the opportunity to engage in individual projects and delve further into her specialty of choice.

Bill Eddinger sees the six apprentices in the 2021 cohort as just the start of the program and plans to increase to 12 apprentices next year, scaling further from there. Bill believes they will hire all apprentices upon completing the program.

Learn more about the Spauling Marine Center and Boatworks 101 program.

Publish Date: 10/06/2022

Advanced ManufacturingDiversity, Equity, Inclusion, and AccessibilityYouth Apprenticeship

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