Staying Afloat with Skills — Dream It! Do It!

The Boston Globe reported last week on the struggles of Maine’s boat-building industry in finding enough skilled employees to keep up with the demands of business. Maine’s population is aging, young people are leaving the state, and the state’s relative isolation makes it hard to recruit employees from elsewhere. From “Boat Building Faces a Headwind“:

In an unprecedented effort to address the shortage, industry leaders are bearing down hard to impress a new message on young Mainers, about cutting-edge opportunities in an age-old livelihood. They are trying to impart the word that boat building demands a wider range of skilled employees than in the past, including engineers, electrical and composite technicians, plumbers, and computer draftsmen, as well as carpenters and craftsmen.

“People don’t realize how challenging the work is, the technology and the new methods we’re using in design through construction,” said Tim Hodgdon, a fifth-generation boat builder at 191-year-old Hodgdon Yachts in East Boothbay. “The fantastic thing is that everybody’s busy, and there are opportunities, so the next challenge is to develop the workforce.”

Sounds familiar to all of us at the NAM. We asked Phyllis Eisen, executive director at The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Workforce Success, to comment on the story. She writes:

We hear this cry for skilled workers from every industry sector and every region of the country. In fact, close to 90 percent of our membership has said they are having a miserable time filling skilled production/technical jobs for traditional industries, such as our great shipbuilding industry, to newer industries such as nanotechnology. We are all hurting and we will be hurting even more as more than seven million manufacturing employees retire in the next few years. That, on top of the negative, old images young people, teachers and parents not wanting to come in to manufacturing because of those old perceptions. Double whammy.

That’s why we created the Dream It. Do It. Campaign – designed to reverse the negative image of manufacturing from dark and dirty to high skilled, clean, creative and innovative i.e. telling the truth about modern, 21st century manufacturing. We are in a race for talent – and the winners will be those who tell the tale of manufacturing the best – be it boats or new textiles – from potato chips to computer chips. The Campaign, now in 10 regions, including three states around the country seeks to help communities fill their skills needs in the exciting careers in today’s manufacturing and changing Why not bring this campaign to Maine? Go to for more info.

Virginia’s manufacturers launch the statewide campaign on October 29th.

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