Publisher’s Point: by Lucy Chabot Reed
When I first flashed the photo of a 200-foot yacht on the big screen and asked the kids what it made them think of, they said money, celebrities, even elections (it was a launch photo and there was bunting on the bow). They made jokes and snickered among themselves.
Then I began to explain the yachting industry and showed photos of welders and painters, designers and crew. They got quiet. They got curious. They asked questions.
And I realized that in just 5 minutes in front of just these 20 kids, I might have sparked a new engineer or electrician, broker or bosun. Wouldn’t it be powerful to make that kind of an impact on 20,000 kids a year?
The Triton is one of 19 companies that have come together with the Marine Industries Association of South Florida to make that happen. As part of Junior Achievement’s Finance Park, we are envisioning and building what they call a “storefront” — what I consider a classroom.
Every eighth grader in the county comes through this facility, the largest one of its kind in the country and funded by the infinitely generous Huizenga family. Those eighth graders have already had 16 hours of classroom time to teach them about different industries, jobs, careers, and how to manage their money over their lifetime, making a connection between their education choices and their future economic success.
Then they visit JA World and get introduced to various businesses and career sectors such as hospitals, universities, retail and construction. Soon, our space will introduce them — most for the first time — to our incredible industry, and the jobs and lifestyle it affords.
Why would such disparate companies as Wright Maritime Group and Water Taxi come together for one mission? Because we all see the impending crisis: A generation of craftsmen — the men and women who created all the businesses that are the reason yachts come to South Florida — are aging out, retiring and even passing away. Unlike Europe, we don’t have an effective way of bringing young people through the ranks. U.S. land-based businesses rely on chance for kids to find this industry, or trip over it as most of us have done.
That’s not good enough.
Our JA classroom is a way to purposefully and strategically reach 20,000 eighth graders in Broward County to open their eyes to great marine industry options for their working lives. Anyway, we’re taking the next three years to try. We’ll see if it works
Allow me to introduce the 18 companies and one trade association that have financially committed to support this effort. I applaud them for recognizing this need not only in our industry but in our community, and for doing something about it. In alphabetical order, we are: