SHORING UP YOUR COMPANY’S RANKS

Jan 03, 2017 DIANE BYRNE

Despite being 15 years old, my friend’s son has his sights set on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for college. Actually, he made the decision three years ago. Crazy about computers and robots, he interviewed family and friends in tech fields for a school project about careers. Some of them happened to be MIT graduates. It took only a few mentions of the school’s name before he asked my friend and her husband if they could visit. A career counselor arranged not just a campus tour, but a seat in a class on the very activities that he loves.

MIT could have told him to come back when he’s older. But it treated him respectfully, just as many other schools and corporations who increasingly are catering to teens and young adults would have treated him. They’re motivated by new population trends which show dramatic changes. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal that Millennials are now the largest Stateside population, eclipsing Baby Boomers. (Generally speaking, Millennials were born between 1982 and 2002.) Meanwhile, in Europe, there’s the opposite scenario. Country-bycountry studies show the 65-and-older age bracket is growing, meaning companies face retirement numbers greater tha nthose of their working-age ranks.

No industry can survive without continuously seeking people to fill its ranks. Neither can it survive if it only recruits from inside its own community. Relying on the current workforce pool means that before long, there will be too few experienced workers left. However, a few potential avenues are available for you to explore. They all come down to one concept:

“Tap into the operational fascination, not just the ownership fascination,” said Bert Fowles, vice president of marketing and sales for IGY Marinas.

1. Open your mind to unusual possibilities. Could a barista be your next great hire? It worked out for IGY Marinas and a crew-placement agency, and it may eventually pay off for a yacht owner and crew. Fowles was struck by the customer service skills of a barista at a local coffee shop. The more he observed the young man, the more Fowles thought he’d be ideal for IGY Marinas’ coffee bar during the recent Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The barista not only took the offer, Fowles said, but also, during the show, asked several questions about how yachts operate. Fowles introduced him to the Denison Crew team and recommended he pick up a copy of the popular book The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess, written by a former crewmember.

2. Don’t limit yourself to recruiting at a maritime institution. Seek out colleges, art institutes and technical schools offering coursework in marketing and graphic design, for starters. Meet with the department chairs to educate them about what their students can achieve with your company, then invite individual classes for familiarization days. For example, IGY Marinas has welcomed local schoolchildren to its display at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Fowles stressed that it’s important to point out that “these are mortgage-paying jobs,” something that resonates with career minded kids and young adults.

Similarly, Benetti hosted a community open house coordinated around a national holiday a few years ago. This first-ever event welcomed yacht enthusiasts and curious passers-by alike to tour two of its yards, plus see scale models of a variety of its deliveries.

3. Start an apprenticeship or internship program. At UKbased Pendennis, about one-third of the craftspeople have come from its 11-year-old apprenticeship program, and one of those former apprentices is now a director of the company. Government grants abound on both sides of the Atlantic to start apprenticeships. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, has nearly $90 million available as part of its ApprenticeshipUSA initiative. It’s focused on accelerating and expanding opportunities in a variety of industries by 2019, with many involving IT skills and non-traditional job sectors. Some also focus on hospitality and tourism jobs.

4. Create a community-outreach program. IGY Marinas held an inaugural company initiative this year called Inspire Giving Through You. Communities surrounding eight of its marinas as well as its corporate offices were the beneficiaries. More than 500 volunteers pitched in, comprised of captains and crew whose yachts regularly visit its marinas, yacht owners themselves, and more. They performed home, school, and facility improvements and repairs, as well as new construction. They also donated computers and tech equipment to a school, then helped train the staff on using them as teaching tools. Above all, they took the time to speak with the local kids and adults. “The more people understand we’re an industry, we’re not just a pretty boat,” the more positive the impact, Fowles said.

5. Create a hands-on opportunity. An activity where kids learn about yachting alongside their parents and grandparents can have a positive impact, too. It can be as uncomplicated or as complex as you want. The design firm Vripack co-hosted a Boat Building Day with a local university a few years ago, when a professor invited the studio to collaborate on a project of its choice. Together, they created scale-model boat-building kits targeted at families who would boats together and launch them on a special date.

From the start, Bart Bowhuis, co-director of Vripack, told the university, “We think it involves not only communication, but design, engineering, a test boat, and a website devoted to the project.”

It took a year of planning, but it reaped double the rewards. The project first involved a boat-design contest among the university students. Vripack’s engineers educated them about factors like wind resistance and space planning. “It was a particularly energetic and especially noisy period here in the office, with all of the students jumping around,” Bowhuis recalled with a laugh.

Once the design was finalized, the students were in full charge of the publicity campaign, including creating the website to order the boat-building kits. Sixty-four families ordered the kits, “way over our expectations,” he said with a smile.

Reward number two: Even a year later, “On a weekly basis, we got calls saying, ‘When are you going to do it again? Can we order a kit?’” said Marnix Hoekstra, co-director of Vripack. “The impact has been quite big.”

No matter what you do, your strategy needs to be for the longterm. As Fowles said, “This isn’t water on a hot road, this is a river of activity."