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Press Release: 3rd Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training (COMITT) Advances Efforts to Address Marine Industry Workforce Development Shortage

February 26, 2008, Annapolis, MD; Brooklin, ME; and Chicago, IL: More than 100 marine industry educators, manufacturers, marine trade associations, and workforce development experts took part in the 3rd Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training (COMITT) in Fort Lauderdale, FL last week. Another 100 people registered for COMITT Online, which is still in process.

Produced by MITEC and co-sponsored by the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Professional BoatBuilder magazine (PBB), the conference concentrated on strategies to recruit and retain marine-industry employees, addressing a workforce shortage that has become a severe problem in our industry.

The conference opened with a three-hour open networking session designed to highlight the primary concerns and objectives of attendees. Guided by David Veech, Executive Director of the Institute for Lean Systems (Louisville, Kentucky), this activity helped attendees to make immediate connections, and provided them with valuable insights into the top three problems attendees felt the industry faced: workforce availability, workforce competence, and workforce retention.

Attendees then participated in targeted seminars and panel discussions, closing out the conference with a concluding networking session in which each attendee was asked to state one action item that he or she could put into play immediately.

Caroline Chetelat, ABYC and COMITT Planning Committee member said, “Initial feedback from COMITT participants tells us that everyone was very pleased with the sessions, presenters and outcomes. This conference is the only one of its kind, and it is important to provide a this type of venue where people can come together to discuss ways to solve problems in our industry.”

Another highlight of the conference was COMITT Online. Produced in collaboration with Elluminate, Inc., a leading provider of live eLearning and web collaboration solutions, the online events ran concurrently with the live conference. By using a hybrid format for the conference, conference producers were able to focus on face-to-face networking onsite, while also providing a high-tech component online.

The COMITT Online site, hosted by ProBoat E-Training, includes forums, presentations, recordings, and numerous links to other sites. Attendees who have already received log-in information for COMITT Online can go directly to the site. Others should register first by clicking here.

Barbara Jean Walsh, COMITT Planning Committee Chair said, “Having 100 people register for COMITT Online shows us that there is considerable interest in the issues we covered, even from people who were unable to attend. We were thrilled to be able to expose our attendees and the marine industry to new online technology, especially through Elluminate Inc. and Hilary Mason’s seminars on New Media.”

As part of one of her presentations, Mason helped attendees create a new social network: Marinelear.ning. This site is open to anyone who wants to connect with other people concerned with marine-industry workforce and training concerns. “We’re asking onsite attendees to join the network, add comments, upload pictures, and invite their own contacts to join in the discussion,” said Walsh. “It’s a great opportunity for people to become involved in planning for the next conference, which will take place as part of IBEX 2008 in Miami Beach.”

Steve Kitchin, MITEC Chair and Vice President, Corporate Education and Training at New England Institute of Technology said, “MITEC is already working on or exploring many of the ideas generated at COMITT. First on our agenda is a Needs and Skills Analysis to pinpoint exactly where the shortages are and what kind of skills training is needed. The second priority is to develop a report on the requirements to create an accreditation system for post-secondary marine-training programs. The third is to create a coordinated communications plan for educators, state employment agencies, and the marine industry. All of these projects will have a direct impact on the top three problems voiced by conference attendees, and MITEC is charged and ready to move forward.”

Links to the COMITT Online sessions, images from the conference, follow-up information, as well as links to other newly created social networking sites for the marine industry as a result of COMITT will be posted at http://www.comitt.org.

In addition to ABYC, NMMA and Professional Boatbuilder magazine, the following organizations also provided either financial or in-kind support for COMITT: Yamaha, Ken Cook Co., the Great Lakes Boat Building School, the Institute for Lean Systems, and Elluminate, Inc.