• Mercury Racing Blog: Future Techs

    The Future Of Skilled Technicians In The Industry

    By Rick Mackie

    I’ve led many tours of Mercury Racing over the past 28 years. People are constantly amazed to see our skilled labor handcrafting outboards, sterndrives, propellers and accessories. Some of the more common questions asked are, “where does your labor comes from and how do they learn their skills?”

    Our employees come with a strong skill set and work ethic in place. The only training needed are for things that may be specific to the job at hand. I attribute their strong work ethic to the Midwest culture. In Fond du Lac, it most likely also stems from the rich German ethnic mix and heavy farming influence. I truly believe farming brings with it an inherent mechanical aptitude that has been ingrained within Mercury since the late Carl Kiekhaefer founded the company in 1939.

    Marine Service School Sophomore Michael Signorelli shadowed with Stock Outboard competitors Talbot at the 2015 Super Boat International Offshore World Championships.
    The twin Mercury 2.5 EFIs were prepped by his uncles Marty and Joe Signorelli (Diamond Marine).

    The education and interests of today’s generation has changed. Millennials grow up using technology – aspiring to play video games and becoming “device” experts from an early age. They are used to instant gratification.

    I recently came across an article in Forbes magazine entitled, “Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training in Schools.” The timing of the article couldn’t have been better.

    Industries such as ours are beginning to feel the pinch in finding skilled labor with a strong work ethic and passion to build and service the products we manufacture. Many say Millennials don’t want to get their hands dirty or have the desire to actually learn skills to build or repair products. I personally believe they are as interested and as capable as ever. We just need to provide them the education and tools they need to succeed.

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    Millennial Diamond

    Marty Signorelli – owner of Diamond Marine – a Mercury Racing dealer located in Ft. Lauderdale – made me aware of one school that is making a difference when it comes to filling the void in skilled labor. His nephew Michael attends Coral Shores High School in Key Largo, Florida. The school has a dedicated marine vocational program. Students who attend the 4-year program learn skills to service marine engines. Upon graduation they can enter the work force as a marine mechanic or further their education in a vocational tech school. I spoke with instructor Chris Catlett regarding the program. Chris has been teaching for 12 years. He is a 20-year Coast Guard Veteran with over 30 years of marine experience. Over 100 students are currently attending the program.

    Marine Service School Instructor Chris Catlett (L) with former student Blye Hofstetter and Michael Signorelli.

    “Mercury Marine helped launch the Marine Service School program. We have 60 Mercury outboards made up of a mix of 2-stroke and 4-stroke models. The kids learn everything; from rebuilding powerheads and gearcases to diagnosing and repairing hydraulic and electrical systems. We are one of five marine mechanic trade schools in the nation which provide students an alternative to a formal four year college education,” said Chris.

    For the past several years, Chris has taken the students to Key West for the annual Super Boat International Offshore World Championships. This past year eight students got to work with the race teams.

    “The kids see the boats go past the school on their way down to Key West for the races. I feel it is important for them to see the engines in use – be it the recreational outboards they work on day in and day out or the exotic – high powered race motors they see competing in the extreme race environment. They get to see cutting edge technology in their own backyard, ” Chris said.

    Mercury Racing technicians handcraft products with passion and perfection.

    2-Stroke DNA
    Michael Signorelli has mechanical aptitude built into his DNA. His uncle Marty and Joe are legendary in their ability to maximize the performance of our legacy 2.5 EFI 2-stroke competition outboards. A future in marine is his destiny. His father Frank is a private boat captain. Michael, now a sophomore, started the Marine Service School program in 2015. His first project was rebuilding a 2-stroke 9.9 h.p. Mercury. He has since moved on to rebuilding 75 h.p. models and beyond. Michael is very interested in engineering. His particular interest is navel architecture. Like mechanics and engine builders – the marine industry can never have enough navel architects.

    We are thankful for instructors such as Chris Catlett and the various vocational programs around the country. I am confident program graduates will provide tech support for Mercury and Mercury Racing products well into the future.

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    Comments 4 Comments
    1. half fast's Avatar
      half fast -
      Great read ,so true.We are to busy making button pushers and not gear heads .Course all us gear heads are frowned upon till someone needs their **** fixed by someone like us , then we're ya bested bud. Hello ,it's okay to get your hands dirty. Hell , it may turn into a well paying career. hf...
    1. Capt.Insane-o's Avatar
      Capt.Insane-o -
      Nice 280's
    1. Nielmcque's Avatar
      Nielmcque -
      I went to a vocational school to work in the engine room in the maritime industry and it was one of the best decisions I ever made and turned into a great career. Getting my hands dirty has made me a good living for the last 10 years and continues to do so. Skilled labor is growing in demand since the supply of skilled laborers is declining. It can be more lucritive and less costly then a college education. There is a certain kind of pride to be taken from working with your hands and being skilled at it. Im glad to hear about more programs like this.
    1. spareparts's Avatar
      spareparts -
      A big issue that we seem to forget is the lack of career path, lets not joke about it. Being a marine tech takes its toll on us over the years, both physically and mentally. In times past, the most experienced techs became the service managers, or at least service writers and parts managers. Those positions are now being filled by button pushers with the excuse good techs are too hard to find, managers are a dime a dozen. If a tech is promoted to an upper position, you loose a tech in the shop.I was told by the GM of a very large Sea Ray dealer ship that their policy was not to promote techs beyond the shop, because they are too hard to find. I've seen yard guys promoted to parts positions, then service writers, then managers. If they don't work out, theres plenty of expendable yard guys or button pushers with a degree rolling thru that you can take a chance with. But very few techs coming in the industry to replace the guys leaving or retiring, At 50 years old, I'm looking at my second back operation, arthritis in both hands, hearing loss in both ears and the knees of a 75 year old. Without some plan or at least the idea of a career path that rewards the pain and sacrifice we make as techs, theres no incentive for a young person to even consider this field.
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