In Beaufort County, boat building is a big business. There are currently nine boat building manufacturers within Beaufort County as well as many boat dealers, marinas, and other boating-related employers.
With a high industry demand for skilled workers, Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College are teaming up to create a pipeline of skilled boat builders.
In February 2019, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded Beaufort County Schools $1,235,000 through the Community-Based Grants Initiative to expand career pathways at the three local high schools. This project is focusing on high demand employment opportunities in the area by establishing education to work pipelines in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and agriculture. One of the programs is boat building.
In June 2020, the Golden LEAF Board awarded Beaufort County Community College Foundation $200,000 through the Open Grants Program to assist the college in establishing a boat building and manufacturing program to serve the local boat building industry.
“Beaufort County Schools, in partnership with Beaufort County Community College, strives to provide well-prepared students for careers and post-secondary education,” said Vicki Hamill, Director of CTE, Workforce, Innovation, & STEM at Beaufort County Schools. “This project provides the school system with the necessary resources to improve existing programs and the facilities to meet those goals.”
In designing the Boat Building programs, Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College worked together and with industry and other workforce partners.
“Beaufort County Schools has worked closely with Beaufort County Community College to support the alignment of courses to support programs we share, such as boat building, automotive, construction, welding, health science, and agriculture,” said Hamill. “Beaufort County Schools also works closely with the Economic Development board, the Chamber of Commerce, NCWorks, and individual industry partners to seek guidance regarding labor market needs now and in the future.”
Beaufort County Community College hired Connor Jones to lead the Boat Building program. Jones graduated from East Carolina with a degree in Mechanical Design and a degree in Industrial Technology.
“Connor has many years of job experience within the boat manufacture industry, with his previous position being a Production Supervisor at Grady White Boats in Greenville, N.C.,” said Kelli Jones, Grant Writer, Special Projects Coordinator at Beaufort County Community College. “Connor held other positions at Grady White Boats including the Process Improvement Engineer and Production Support. He was respected within his positions due to his comprehensive knowledge of the boat manufacture process, from start to finish.”
The Beaufort County Community College program is currently working with its first cohort of four students.
“There have been multiple joint events hosted by Beaufort County Community College and Beaufort County Schools boating programs to support and promote the alignment of the programs for students,” said Jones. “One such collaborative event invited vendors who brought different types of boats into the Beaufort County Community College program building to showcase and explain the different aspects of the boats and what their companies did.”
The first cohort of students at Beaufort County Community College has two students from the college and two students from the first Beaufort County Schools program cohort. The programs are working together to serve those interested in boat building.
“We have a strong boat building industry regionally, as well as locally,” said Hamill. “Our industry partners are very excited to see this project come to fruition. Without the Golden LEAF funds, this program would not have been possible.”
With strong industry and community support, the expectation is the programs will continue to grow.
“The Golden LEAF Foundation was the funding that made this program possible to implement,” said Jones. “One of our duties as a community college is to provide the education and training that bridges the gap within local industry and the boating manufacturer sector is certainly one that has needed to be addressed. Golden LEAF funded the initial equipment necessary to kick-start a program that is relevant and growing within our region. We are greatly appreciative of the opportunity.”