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Training Tomorrow’s Boat Technicians Today

The Great Lakes Boat Building School breaks ground on a new facility.

Training Tomorrow’s Boat Technicians Today

In October, the Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS) broke ground on a new $3.8 million Marine Technology Center on its campus in Cedarville, Michigan. Located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the shores of Lake Huron, GLBBS is the only accredited marine-industry training school in the Great Lakes region.

GLBBS offers two intensive 12-month courses, the Comprehensive Career Boat Building Program and the Marine Service Technology Program, in partnership with Mercury Marine’s training division, Mercury University. When construction on the new, 10,000-square-foot facility is completed, it will allow GLBBS to expand its course offerings, adding a Marine Electronic Technology program – the first of its kind in the nation.

“We are excited to see the school continue to grow, and this expansion will benefit students wanting to enter the marine industry. We value our partnership and look forward to offering expanded Mercury training in the new facility,” said Mercury University Development and Operations Manager Nick Van Nocker, who was part of the “shovel team” at the ground-breaking ceremony. Also attending the event was Daryl Heyboer, Mercury workforce development manager.

The GLBBS Comprehensive Career Boat Building course pays homage to the region’s wooden boat-building tradition as students learn the fundamentals of boat design, construction and repair by working with wood and wood composites. Not only do they gain artisanal carpentry skills, but they also learn today’s cutting-edge resin-infused boat construction techniques. This course prepares them for a career working for a boat manufacturer, marine dealership, service center, boatyard or marina.

In 2020, in response to a nationwide need for skilled marine service technicians, GLBBS formed a partnership with Mercury Marine and Mercury University, its professional training division. The partnership’s first fruit has been the school’s Marine Service Technology Program, which trains students to be skilled entry-level marine service technicians ready to join the workforce. Through this partnership, Mercury has donated training aids, engines and rigging equipment to the school.

The Marine Service Technology curriculum, which GLBBS designed in collaboration with Mercury University, incorporates applicable M‑TEK courses (online Marine Technician’s Essential Knowledge E‑Skills programs from Mercury). Rather than taking place in a classroom setting, training sessions focus on extensive hands‑on work on the marine engines, systems and equipment supplied by Mercury in an environment designed to simulate actual marine service-shop conditions.

“It feels like a real, live boat shop,” said GLBBS President Nikki Storey. “We run them through the program like it’s a regular workday.”

On completion of the course, students receive a Mercury Marine Systems Technician Certificate. If they go on to become employed by a Mercury Authorized Dealer, their coursework also becomes the first step toward their qualifying as a Certified Mercury Technician. In addition, they have the option to test for certifications offered by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).

The skills that GLBBS students learn and the certificates they earn through the school make them exceptionally well prepared for a career as a marine technician in a variety of settings, including boat dealerships, service shops and marinas.

In fact, Storey said, “We have employers from all across the country offering jobs. So far, our graduates have had 100-percent placement. We tell our students, ‘Anywhere there is water, there is a job opportunity.’”

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