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Local boatbuilding talent pipeline continues growth

Twenty people graduated from Pamlico Yachtworks’ composite training program in a ceremony Thursday, bringing the company closer to its commitment to create approximately 200 jobs in Beaufort County.

The ceremony also represented in other step in the county’s quest to build a talent pipeline that can feed the various boat manufacturers throughout the region.

“If you take into consideration Grady-White and World Cat, within 45 minutes to downtown (Washington) you’ve got 11 boat builders,” Beaufort County Economic Development Director Martyn Johnson said. “So in terms of a career, it is a great opportunity.

“Also, the skills learned in boatbuilding can be applied to other industries — woodworking, metalworking, electronics, wiring — so people can learn some great skills and get paid well.”

Pamlico Yachtworks’ training program is conducted in cohorts on a year-round basis and is facilitated by Beaufort County Community College, which is launching its own boatbuilding curriculum this fall.  Participants in the program receive specialized training in all aspects of boatbuilding.

“We divide the class into half hands-on training, and half is theory, classroom time — explaining the processes, and where does all this stuff emanate from,” instructor Philip Steggall said. “It’s easier to learn if you understand the root of the theory, the practices.”

Participants apply their newfound skills while working on projects at Pamlico Yachtworks. There’s plenty of work to be done there and throughout the rest of the local boat manufacturing industry, which has been booming throughout the pandemic.

Following the ceremony Thursday, program graduate Cedrik Summers and his coworkers quickly got back to working on the shell of a watercraft. Summers said the training program helped him develop leadership skills that are essential in the industry.

“I need to be able to express myself and be able to tell everybody what to do and how to do it, without making it seem like I’m just telling them what to do,” Summers said. “…I try to tell everybody, as long as you work hard, as long as you have the dedication, there’s really nothing you can’t do here.”

“My problem was when I first started I was afraid to ask questions,” program graduate Jeff Moore said. “I felt like it would look like I didn’t know what I’m doing. (Steggall) pulled me aside and said that’s what he wants, for us to ask questions.

“Anyone who wants to come into the boatbuilding business should come in here with an open mind, show them that you’re dedicated and ready to work.”

PIPELINE

The county’s efforts to provide resources for those who want to pursue careers in boatbuilding and similar industries have been bolstered in recent years, as Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College have added boatbuilding manufacturing to their curriculums. Along with the Inner Banks STEM Center, which offers activities that teach concepts related to boatbuilding, Johnson said those programs will help mold students into skilled workers with specialized training.

Steggall said there’s a high level of interest in boatbuilding careers.

“Boatbuilding has been here for a long time,” Steggall said. “It’s an industry that’s well-represented.

“But they want to be more than someone who mixes resin, or someone who works with fiberglass,” he added, referring to the 20 graduates.  “They want to be a technician — they take this very seriously. So that’s encouraging.”

Pamlico Yachtworks is witnessing that demand every day. The company currently has approximately 115 employees in Washington, and it expects to have over 200 by the end of the year.

“We love being here,” Pamlico Yachtworks owner Peter Johnstone said. It’s a great community. We love the welcome that we’ve felt, it’s a warm welcome, and we’ll do our part of the deal for coming here. We’re very committed.”