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Thread: Where art though woodworkers???

  1. #1

    Where art though woodworkers???

    As many of you know, I work for a boatbuilding company. I am a machinist, but we hire a lot of woodworkers. The fact is the company I work for just cannot find enough woodworkers. Now granted the yachts we build are in the 3-15 million dollar range and when people are spending this much for a yacht, they want every thing to be perfect...and I mean perfect. Angles are in the ½º range. Gaps can be no bigger then 1/32. And every board is finished with 18-20 coats of spar varnish.

    The back log of boats to start building extends into the next decade. The company has doubled in size, built a huge new boat building and have been hiring machinists, carpenters, electricians and other trades to boot...200 in total right now. Still transitioning from home carpentry to boatbuilding has been tough. Even with above average pay, good benefits and extremely generous vacation times, they cannot find enough woodworkers.

    So my question is, where can the booming yacht building industry here in Maine find new woodworkers? Why aren't there more young people getting involved or stepping forward? I mean its clean, challenging and work that is warm and done inside buildings on a year around basis. There is a lot of finished pride at the boats launching; and yet there are no woodworkers to be had.

    Even in the machine shop, I work with 7 other people and 5 are nearing retirement age. When I ask myself "who will be here in 5 years",the shop starts to look pretty sparse. Over in the carpentry shop, and the cabinet shop, its even worse. Its filled with skilled, older workers. Who is going to replace those guys? With boats there is a huge learning curve, and a lot of compound angles and sweeping curves to deal with. How can a blossoming boatyard have a future without talented woodworkers?

    This is scary stuff...where oh where are the woodworkers??

    (Here is the link for my place of employment in case you are into boats or are just interested in what we build. The best pictures are located under the "Just launched" link. Then under the "Electra" link, then about halfway down that page there is a link for "Interior pictures". These show off the interior woodwork quite well.)

    Last edited by Travis Johnson; 01-11-2008 at 10:47 AM.
    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Zushi, Japan
    Travis and interesting post. If I was in the right position I would jump at the opportunity. Traditionally a company in your position had an appretice program set up for the double purpose of offering opportunities to young and being able to supply their need for trained tradesmen. This system works well as a company can train for their specific needs. Today's companies are quick to say they can't afford the expense but with a company like yours I don't see how they can afford not to.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
    Alex, that's just what I was going to say.

    Travis, is there an apprentice system in place at your place? If not, you had better get one quick. It's no use waiting for someone else to supply the people you need -you have to be pro-active and do it yourselves.
    Last edited by Frank Pellow; 01-11-2008 at 12:15 PM.
    Cheers, Frank

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Yep, an apprenticeship program would be great, as well as a summer work program with a local high school shop class or something?

    Otherwise, I think it is a general trend in too many western countries. I think that emphasis on a university, an academic education as the only way to be able to have a good life, is also to blame. Don't get me wrong, a good education is very important, but a BA is not the only way to make a good living, in fact I know some people with BAs who are still waiting tables

    A good education and apprenticeship in the trades can be a VERY good life, as I'm sure many guys here would say.

    I too would jump at the chance to be able to do that kind of top drawer work, but the commute would be a killer
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    The Heart of Dixie
    Just a sign of the times. If it doesn't involve a computer AND means getting dirty no one wants to do it.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.

    Kudzu Craft Lightweight Skin on frame Kayaks.
    Custom built boats and Kits

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Just curious, What is the pay range for a carpenter? And are you a union shop?

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  7. #7
    Hear you............
    Worked in the machine trade and lack of skilled help was at all time low.

    The CNC machines have replaced many good men.

    The skill trade was paying $30 hour, a CNC machine operator are getting $17-$20.

    Remember my dad tool & die man did all his calucations by long hand with pencil and paper.
    He made moldes that would take him 3-6 months to make with a file. Now that is a crafstman, now a CNC can do the same in hour.

    WoodWorking, Crappie Fishing, Colts, Life is good!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Alex said it.
    I believe the problem is that, in America, we have lost much of the pride that goes with working with ones hands. Our country's economy is now built on service, lattes and BMWs.
    Maybe your company needs to do a nationwide recruiting effort and, possibly, extend that effort to Europe.
    Would it be practical to outsource any of that work?
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Schenectady, NY

    I hear ya Travis

    I've been asking that question for years. And not only for woodworkers, but plumbers, electricians, masons, auto mechanics, machinists, and other "hands on" jobs. Things like these can't be "outsourced". Some of these have apprentice programs but they aren't able to fill the vacancies. Why ? College is not for everyone. Taking "Shop" out of schools and replacing it with "Tech" is going to hurt us down the road. Young people need to be exposed to as many possibilities as possible so they can see what is availeble for their, and our, future. Health care is another area which is suffering. People don't want to get their hands dirty for some reason, and many don't want to start at the bottom and work their way up.

    Many people have and do make a darned good living in the "Trades". Who is going to build and maintain the infrastructure required by all the "tech" businesses and their employees ? Working with your hands also requires using your brain. People with money want, and will pay for, the best of the best, like those buying high end yachts. If we don't provide it, they will go somewhere else-more outsourcing. When do we say enough is enough?

    Thanks for listening, I'm climbing down off my soapbox now.
    Don Orr

    Woodturners make the World go ROUND

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    San Antonio, Texas
    Boat?? Looks more like a luxury liner to me. Might be tempting to seek out a move, but for three things... 1) I'm not fast enough, 2) too far from the family and 3) I hate cold and snow.

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