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With an estimated 100 million Americans boating each year, the recreational boating industry supports more than 690,000 jobs and 35,000 businesses. Marine technicians make up a vital part of this industry by keeping boats properly maintained and making sure recreational boaters stay safe out on the water.

The growing marine industry relies on a highly-skilled workforce of technicians, manufacturers, and engineers. The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) is a non-profit organization that develops voluntary global safety standards for designing, constructing, maintaining, and repairing recreational boats.

Setting the Gold Standard

ABYC was formed in 1954 in response to a post-war boom in recreational boating. Concerned about the lack of safety standards, Members of the Motorboat and Yacht Advisory Panel of the US Coast Guard’s Merchant Marine Council formed ABYC and began creating guidelines for boat construction and maintenance. Today, 90% of boats on the water are built to ABYC standards.

During the standard development process, ABYC brings together voluntary technical experts, including boat builders, technicians, engineers, boat and accessory manufacturers, surveyors and investigators, retailers and dealers, yacht brokers and designers, marinas, law firms, government agencies, boat owners, insurance companies, and more. This diverse group works together to develop comprehensive standards to protect the safety of the boating public.

ABYC’s 75+ marine standards are continuously researched and revised by over 400 volunteer marine professionals across 16 Project Technical Committees. ABYC also collaborates with safety organizations worldwide like Transport Canada and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The development and regular review of these standards provide boat building guidelines that correlate directly to the significant reduction in boating accidents over the past six decades.

Finding a Credentialing Partner

ABYC is a standards-writing organization at its core. But in the early 1990s, it saw a growing need for skilled marine technicians. As a small nonprofit, ABYC did not have the bandwidth or the technical expertise to create certification assessments.

Nocti Business Solutions and its sister organization, NOCTI, are nationally recognized assessment developers with a long history of developing technical education assessments. NBS began working with ABYC to create blueprints and certifications based on ABYC’s robust standards. We delivered the first exam in August 1997.

Together, ABYC and NBS have developed more industry certifications and expanded ABYC’s educational programs. The list of professional certifications includes:

  • ABYC Standards
  • Marine Systems
  • Marine Corrosion
  • Marine Electrical
  • Diesel Engines
  • Gasoline Engines
  • Marine Composites
  • A/C Refrigeration
  • Advanced Marine Electrical

Additional Support During COVID

The pandemic brought a strong surge in boat sales as Americans found ways to spend more time outside with their families. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), annual sales grew by 14% in 2020, with some states like Florida up 28% from 2019. Recreational boating remained the leading outdoor recreation sector in the U.S. during 2021, and the NMMA expects 2022 to be another record year of boating sales.

Along with increased sales comes a need for skilled technicians to maintain and repair these boats. NBS helped ABYC maintain its educational programing during COVID by facilitating a seamless switch to online test delivery. NBS also offered remote proctoring and additional support for test-takers who encountered technical difficulties with the online testing system.

Filling the Pipeline with Skilled Marine Technicians

The skills gap and the demand for skilled workers is felt in nearly every industry. Given the dramatic increase in recreational boating, the need for highly skilled marine technicians is higher than ever.

ABYC is working to close this skills gap by providing technical education, training, certification, and professional development. Working with NOCTI, ABYC has partnered with over 60 schools to offer marine technician credentials as secondary and post-secondary education programs. Other educational efforts like seminars, workshops, and technician certification courses are vital components of increasing technical knowledge and professionalism throughout the boating industry. ABYC certifies an average of 1,100 new technicians per year.

In January 2022, ABYC launched the first official Marine Trades Accreditation Program (MTAP) for schools teaching marine service. MTAP will help create a more robust pipeline of skilled, entry-level workers by ensuring quality training aligns with industry needs at high school and post-secondary schools.

“Over the years, ABYC has developed a lot of resources for schools, including a textbook, workbook, and the Marine Service Technology curriculum,” said Margaret Podlich, ABYC Foundation executive director. “MTAP is a natural next step to providing the gold seal of approval recognizing top-level programs.”

Equipping a Skilled Workforce

NBS is proud to partner with ABYC as they work to accomplish their mission of developing product safety standards, credentialing, education, training, and other tools to equip our members to be successful and achieve the goal of making boating safer.

Our shared expertise is helping facilitate educational and certification programs that will help close the skills gap for marine technicians and equip new technicians with the skills to succeed in a growing industry.