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Federal Reserve cites Skills for Life Marine Mechanics as exemplary Sector Partnership program

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland recently recognized the WSOS Skills for Life Marine Mechanics Training program as an exemplary case study in sector-based partnerships in the Federal Reserve’s Fourth District territory.

The program was featured in the Fed’s publication, “Addressing Employment Needs through Sector Partnerships: Case studies from across the Federal Reserve’s Fourth District,” released in late summer 2016. Sector-based partnerships are those that bring employers, non-profits, educational institutions and other entities together to address a particular need of job-seekers and industry in a region. The Skills for Life Marine Mechanics Training program provides fast-track marine industry career training to residents of the northwest Ohio Lake Erie region.

The program began 15 years ago as a partnership between WSOS, Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC), Penta Career Center, and members of the marine industry to address a shortage of qualified marine mechanics in the region. Local marinas, manufacturers and marine retailers were having difficulty finding applicants to fill available positions.

“Marine industry employers were finding that qualified applicants were difficult to come by,” WSOS Planning & Development Coordinator Kerrie Carte said. “This challenge ultimately led to the creation of a course that could give interested students the training they needed to become viable candidates for marine mechanic careers.”

The Skills for Life Marine Mechanics Training program was thus designed to be a relatively rapid, but comprehensive hands-on training course.

The 16-week course teaches students the basics of equipment, motors, water safety, seasonal maintenance and repair practices, and other necessary marine mechanic skills. Coursework takes place at the Ottawa County Resource Center with courses led by experienced marine mechanic Greg Sharp. At the facility, students have access to a wide range of equipment for training that was donated by Volvo Penta of the Americas and Yamaha Corporation.

In its fifteen-year history, 159 students have enrolled in the course, 134 have completed the course, and 96 were employed within 90 days of graduation.

“Not all students who enter the course are going to find that the career is right for them, so we expect that some students will leave the course,” Roger Fisher, WSOS employment and training coordinator said. “But overall, Skills for Life Marine Mechanics has an 84 percent completion rate in its lifetime, and students usually secure careers quickly after graduation, so the program has demonstrated itself to be extremely successful.”

In addition to administrating the Skills for Life Marine Mechanics program and coordinating the partnership, WSOS provides case management and wraparound services to help students succeed in their coursework and develop other workforce skills that will benefit them in their new careers. While the program does have a fee for students, some students may receive funding assistance through other programs or sources.

Given that marine mechanics’ salaries average close to $37,000 per year, the Fed recognized the program’s ability to connect job-seekers with a sustainable career that is in-demand in the lakeshore region. The Fed’s report also cited the partnerships continued engagement with employers and workforce partners as reasons for the program’s continued success.

The next Skills for Life Marine Mechanics course is set to begin in November 2016. For more information, contact Roger Fisher at 1-800-775-9767 or visit www.wsos.org.

The full Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland report can be found online at www.clevelandfed.org.