Teens chart their course on boat repair

Program addresses the growing need for skilled workers to support state's marine industry.

April 27, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

There's more to boats than watertight hulls, and there's more to boat repair than scraping barnacles off keels.

Boats are complex, according to Bart Sherman.

"It's like a floating house - plus it has to move," said the teacher, who leads marine repair technology courses at the Center for Applied Technology South in Edgewater.

Students in the Anne Arundel County public school program learn a variety of disciplines, including cabinetmaking, marine plumbing systems and fiberglass hull repair as well as engine maintenance.

Marine industry experts say the program, one of few such offered statewide, addresses the growing need for skilled workers to support recreational boating in the state's marinas and yacht yards.

Austin Northcraft, 16, of Edgewater repaired an outboard motor using parts from a sunken boat during a recent visit to an advanced class at the school.

Marine repair "is fun if you like being by the water and being outside a lot," he said.

The South River High School junior said he enjoys rockfishing nearly every weekend with his father. He plans to take business courses at college to prepare him to own a marina.

Another student, Dan McVicker, 18, scraped tape off woodwork on a small sailboat. The class had replaced the bulkhead.

"I like the marine life," the Edgewater resident said during a break.

The South River senior said he joined the course to learn how to fix up his 15-foot powerboat. McVicker enjoys fishing for freshwater fish, especially largemouth bass, and plans to study fisheries biology at college.

Marcus Williams, 17, of Davidsonville worked on a electronics panel in another area.

Although he doesn't sail, the South River junior hopes to use the skills from marine repair technology to pay for college expenses at the University of Maryland, College Park or University of North Carolina.

The classes sometimes refurbish boats donated to the school. The technology center then resells them to help support its programs, said Principal Ron Alberico.

His school draws students from five high schools - Annapolis, Broadneck, Severna Park, South River and Southern - for the classes, which count toward high school graduation.

This year, 31 students are enrolled in the marine repair program's basic and advanced classes or in the work-study program. Next year, nine will enter the yearlong second level.

"We're producing kids for the job market," he said.

Industry experts say programs such as the one at the technology center help meet the demand for trained workers.

"There is a real shortage in marine technicians nationwide and also in this area," said Bonnie Barsa, education director for the Edgewater-based American Boat and Yacht Council.

The council often receives calls from businesses looking for potential employees.

Even interest in the technology center's mock interviews, which help prepare students for job searches, is high. Twelve businesses will send representatives to conduct mock interviews of students, school officials said.

Barsa said marine repair and technology, like other trades, has suffered because more high school students are pursuing college instead.

However, marine technology has a lot to offer, said Susan Zellers, executive director of the Annapolis-based Marine Trades Association of Maryland.

"This is an industry that has really changed," she said.

"It's not just carpentry work and planing the bottoms of boats. ... It's a big business now," she said.

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