Cape Fear Community College and Yamaha Corp. have partnered in a new program at the college aimed at training future marine technicians.
Part of the college's Continuing Education programs, the Introduction to Outboard Systems course began this summer with 16 students, according to Josh Davis, director of customized training and workforce development at CFCC.
Officials with the college and representatives of Yamaha gathered Thursday along the college's docks on the Cape Fear River for a press conference to share details of the new course developed with curriculum from Yamaha Marine University, the company's dealer education and training program.
In the Wilmington area, Yamaha has more than 20 dealers, said Mark Harden, district service manager with Yamaha.
"Our dealers ... they are in desperate need of skilled labor. Right now today I could place 10 technicians in this area," he said. "The market has grown. The market is strong, and dealers are selling large numbers of product and you have got to be able to take care of the product."
Thursday's announcement comes just before the start of this year's Wilmington Boat Show
, for which Yamaha is the presenting sponsor.
"As many of you know we have a very rich history in boating at the college," CFCC President Jim Morton said at the press conference, highlighting the school's boat building programs, as well as the marine technology program and its 135-foot RV Cape Hatteras research vessel, which served as the backdrop at Thursday's event.
"We wanted to continue to expand our marine division, and in doing so ... we're going to listen to industry and business and determine what needs are out there. And we determined there is a need for a skilled labor force to work on boat motors," Morton said.
The new Introduction to Outboard Systems course is 72 hours. It costs $185 and operates under open enrollment, Davis said. Students must be at least 17 years old to register.
"The course is designed to cover basic entry-level skills for technicians. Upon completion [and] training, [students] will have the opportunity to take the Introduction to Outboard Systems final exam for their first official Yamaha certification," Davis said.
Students learn through hands-on labs and work with complex components such as trim and tilt units, water pumps and timing belts. More advanced service skills, such as troubleshooting, checking valve clearances, starting and charging system testing and diagnostics are also covered in the course, Davis said.
"These skills are being taught in our outboard engine shop, on up-to-date equipment that our partners that have generously donated to the program," Davis said.
In addition to helping with the course's curriculum, Yamaha donated two, 350 horsepower outboard motors to the college for the program. Yamaha's donation was over $79,000 in equipment for student training, including outboards, cylinder heads, lower units, propellers and controls.
Other local marine service businesses also donated materials for the program, including Atlantic Marine, Tom’s Marine Center and Boats Unlimited NC.
This course is the first of a series of Yamaha classes under development to be used at education institutions. A second curriculum is also being developed, the details and timeline of which have not yet been announced, Harden said.
There are currently 70 schools nationwide considered "tech school partners" with Yamaha, Harden said. There are three in North Carolina, including through the new course at CFCC, he said.
A starting position as a boat motor technician pays between $15 to $18 an hour, he said. Highly skilled technicians typically earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year, he added.
Within the past few weeks, Yamaha has begun its 24-month apprenticeship program that is also available to students who earn the certification. There are a handful of dealers in Yamaha's nationwide network that are involved in the apprenticeship program. However, no dealerships in the area currently offer apprenticeships through the company's program.
Harden said Yamaha continues to develop its nationwide and regional dealers involved in the apprenticeship program.
The apprenticeship program, however, is not a requirement for students to get a job out of the new CFCC course, he said. It's just another way for the new technicians to continue their training.
"There's more than one path to get there, and that's what we are trying to create because there is such a huge need," Harden said.