Boatbuilding school launches new course with $100K grant

Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 3/14/17

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding has been granted an opportunity to broaden its base of students and further support the local maritime industry.

The school received a $100,000 …

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Boatbuilding school launches new course with $100K grant


The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding has been granted an opportunity to broaden its base of students and further support the local maritime industry.

The school received a $100,000 Washington Work Start grant to launch a new marine systems training program, to bolster Washington's short supply of existing marine systems technicians by providing a much-needed avenue to train within the state, according to Betsy Davis, executive director of the school.

“It's an exciting opportunity,” said Davis, who explained that this grant followed nearly a year of deliberations by the school on what its next direction would be. “The purpose of this grant is to serve those who already work at the boatyards.”

“Our schools has usually worked with apprentice or entry-level students,” said Sean Koomen, chief instructor for the school, who expects to start work on the curriculum for the new course this summer. “This program should open us up to working with folks who have been in the yards for decades and already developed advanced skills.”

Davis elaborated that the school plans to conduct interviews in the boatyards, to find out which skills are most in demand.

“We'll identify the key tasks that need to be built up, and which learning aids we should furnish our students with, so they can practice and master these skills in a hands-on fashion,” Davis said.

Koomen added that the school will accept sign-ups for the new course from August through the end of the year, in time for the six-month program to start sometime in 2018.


As he prepares to build the course, Koomen knows that it needs to include intensive training in topics such as basic electrical, marine diesel engines, propulsion, steering and controls, and marine plumbing.

Davis noted that, while the course should adhere to the industry certification standards of the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), it is not intended to replace the ABYC classes, which the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding is set to host this September.

Davis cited a recent update to the state's Maritime Industry Cluster Study, which reported not only the relative scarcity of marine systems technicians, forcing some local companies to turn away work, but also the paucity of in-state training outlets for such personnel.

“This will let them build their abilities and confidence, right in the same community where they already live and work,” Davis said. “Hopefully, we can grow an even larger workforce in the region, to grow our maritime businesses.”

“These funds will help our workforce remain connected to our state’s maritime roots,” said Brian Bonlender, Washington State Department of Commerce director. “This program will allow more companies with critical workforce needs to succeed.”

Washington's maritime industry directly contributes more than 69,000 jobs, and has a combined economic impact of more than $37 billion annually, from urban centers to rural towns up and down the state's working waterfronts, Bonlender said


EDC Team Jefferson, the economic development council for Jefferson County, requested funding for the industry-prioritized marine vessel systems curriculum at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

“Our local maritime industry continues to be a key driving force for our economy,” said Brian Kuh, executive director of EDC Team Jefferson. “This grant opportunity from Commerce will help build resiliency for this sector by keeping our workforce effectively trained to meet current and future demand.”

“The diverse maritime industry in Washington state provides family-wage jobs on the Olympic Peninsula and across the state,” said Ann Avary, director of the Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology. “The industry needs a well-trained technician workforce to be competitive and grow. The school's plan to expand curricula to include vessel systems aligns perfectly with industry demand and the skill sets needed to enter the marine trades workforce.”

“The Port of Port Townsend considers vocational training to be a key ingredient in building a thriving local economy,” wrote Sam Gibboney, executive director of the Port of Port Townsend. “Many businesses in Boat Haven have hired graduates of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding over the years. The new marine systems curriculum is highly relevant to the work going on in the Port today.”

“The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding works closely with the industry,” Davis said. “Over its 35-year history, our graduates have built successful businesses and hired other graduates. This program will become an important, sustainable component of the marine trades on Port Townsend Bay.”


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