Randall Lyons, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association (MMTA): Careers In the Boating Industry
Randall is passionate about recreational boating and building the industry’s workforce.
“I think most people don’t recognize there are many careers paths they can pursue in boating—and that they can build sustainable careers. It’s a great place to work. Workers in the boating industry are very enthusiastic about providing service to the boat owners. Typically boaters are nice people—happy to be doing a recreational activity they enjoy. They love being on the water, and want to have the maximum time out there. It’s a fun industry; we share the love of the lifestyle with the boaters and feel fortunate to be working with people who are happy.”
It’s a misconception that all recreational boats are luxury craft.
“According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the overwhelming majority of recreational boaters are middle-class Americans. Of the recreational boat population in the U.S., 95 percent of registered mechanically-propelled boats are less than 26 feet in length, which makes them trailered boats1. “
“Everyone shares a common goal to make boaters happy," Randall says.
"There is a community feel within boating industry businesses, staffed by people who have worked there for years. The focus is getting the boaters on the water and helping them maximize their recreational time. Opening day for the season is an exciting time—working together to get the boats on the water and facilities ready.”
“Working in the boating industry you can get your hands dirty."
"Both marine and auto trades are a great fit for people who have mechanical aptitude and like to work hands-on. As a Marine Technician, you’ll likely be working around the water and have the opportunity to test drive boats during sea trials. Marine Technicians experience new challenges every day. Every boat—every engine—is different; the work is definitely not repetitive. Marine Techs, once they’ve hit the expected standards in their work, are given flexibility to work on their own. They are supervised, but typically are not micromanaged.”
Increasingly, the industry needs workers who are comfortable with technology.
“Marine technology is changing. Boats and engines need to meet environmental standards. The industry has opportunities for people who have computer skills or knowledge of electric and electronic technology related to marine systems. Employers want smart people who can troubleshoot as well as repair problems.”
“There’s a lot of opportunity to grow, earn certifications and take on new responsibilities," Randall explains.
"Most companies place a high value on training and retaining employees—they want to make them feel valued. These companies will groom people for the industry and support them as they work their way up. A good percentage of these jobs require the mechanical hands-on skill set that MTTI trains for. People can start as mechanics and, depending on the size of the facility, expand their skills to work in fiberglass, carpentry, HVAC, painting, maintenance and many other positions—you don’t have to do just one thing. If you want to travel, certain service facilities offer service on the road. Others, like Safe Harbor Marinas, offer the opportunity for you to transfer to facilities in other states or regions of the country.”
NMMA estimates there are approximately 20,000 recreational boating industry jobs in the state.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, “Typical positions include: outboard, Inboard/outboard, diesel, and system technicians; yard worker generalists; and administrative, sales, finance, and marina staff. The jobs are usually performed near the water and offer competitive salaries and hourly wages, typically year around.” You can view a continuously updated list of open positions at: https://www.massboatingcareers.com/jobs.html. You can view a Wage and Benefits Survey completed by the Massachusetts Marine Trades Educational Trust (October 2018), which includes a chart of low, average and high pay per hour or yearly salary, according to the position.
Randall offers suggestions for internship and job seekers.
“When you are looking for an internship or job, making contact and communicating with companies is one of the key elements to getting hired. After doing some research about different facilities call and visit managers to talk with them. Ask smart, well-thought out questions. Even if you are not interested in the positions they offer, they are good contacts. Share your interests in working on boats—establish that you are passionate about the industry. Make connections for the future. You never know what will come up.”
"Once hired, show your desire to learn more," he advises.
“Ask questions, seek help. It is important for new hires to have a mentor. Talk to managers and owners and tell them, ‘I’m interested and want to learn more—this is what I want to do over the next years.’ Have a plan for future growth—goals and expectations; tell them you hope to do this with their company.”
“MTTI’s reputation for training technicians is strong,” Randall says.
“Students are getting seven months of hands-on training at a well-run organization—that gives them a real boost to get their foot in the door. I’ve attended Program Advisory Committee meetings at MTTI to review the Marine Service Technician program, and am impressed with the training-related placement, which is at, or very close to, 100% each year.”2
If you are seriously considering training to work in the boating industry, you can apply for a scholarship.
The Massachusetts Marine Trades Educational Trust (MMTET) awards scholarships to deserving individuals who are pursuing a career in the industry. Massachusetts Marine Trades Association’s Board of Directors founded the MMTET, a non-profit foundation, which funds efforts to accomplish the educational goals of the Massachusetts Marine Trades. These awards may be given to a Massachusetts resident who is a high school senior or graduate pursuing an education or training at a qualified institute of higher learning, with the intent of entering or continuing to work in the recreational marine industry in Massachusetts. Depending on the number of applications and funding available each year, awards can be up to $1500. Ask the Admissions Rep at MTTI for the application to apply.
Check out the video about Massachusetts Boating Careers.
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association since 2017, Randall Lyons has more than 20 years of experience in the boating industry. Starting out doing seasonal work at the Nantucket Boat Basin, he worked his way up to become Director of Communications. He moved on to gain experience as a Service Writer for a marine dealership and then worked at another marina. From 2006 to 2016, he started as Assistant General Manager and was promoted to Business Manager for Newburyport Marinas. In addition to his dedication to industry workforce development, Randall also strongly advocates for getting kids out on the water early in their lives. Although he worked around the water at an early age, he didn’t grow up boating. Now he enjoys sharing his passion for the industry with his two kids, providing them the opportunity to learn more about boating and fishing at an early age.
Top: Randall with 2015 MTTI Graduate, Alyssa Linkamper (Safe Harbor Marinas) at Recruit Military Career Day
Read Alyssa's "Busting Myths About Marine Tech Careers"
Left: MMTA Displays at the Boat Show
Right: Randall with 2017 MTTI Graduate & MMTET Scholarship Recipient, Justin Hart (Burr Brothers Boat, Inc.)
Read Justin's story.
Bottom Right: Randal Lyons Promoting Careers in Boating at the Boat Show
CITATIONS 1. Basic Facts of Recreational Vessel Population and Recreational Boating Demographics; National Marine Manufacturers Association; https://www.nmma.org 2. Marine Service Technician program training-related employment, according to the standards of the ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and College): Program Year 2015-16 - 7 people graduated / 7 people employed = 100%; Program Year 2016-17 - 11 people graduated / 11 people employed = 100%; Program Year 2017-18 - 14 people graduated / 13 people employed = 93% (1 person medically unable to work; Program Year 2018-2019 - 11 people graduated / 11 people employed = 100%.