The HISWA In-Water Boat Show opens next week amid rosy economic growth forecasts of 3.3% for the Netherlands in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018. The country has not seen growth like this since the start of the global financial crisis of 2008.
Reflecting good times at the Amsterdam show will be the debut of Hartman Yachts, a new Dutch superyacht builder showing a semi-custom expedition yacht, the Livingstone, that will be built in 24m and 42m versions.
But there is a downside to growth in a small nation of 4,200 marine companies turning over €2bn a year. It exacerbates the search for skilled labour. Dutch boatbuilders rely on innovation and quality to remain a factor in international markets, as their domestic market struggles with an ageing boating population.
With that in mind, the government and the Dutch marine sector recently launched the Yacht Builders Academy, a €2.3m traineeship project offering stepped-up vocational training in yacht disciplines. More than two dozen vocational schools and companies have joined the project.
Enrolment will reach 360 by 2021. Courses cover traditional disciplines like interior building and mechanical engineering, but also new fields like teak deck laying, railing construction and yacht painting. The academy’s curricula have been developed in consultation with yacht builders and suppliers.
“We respond to the skills demand of companies,” says Igor van Rooij, the Yacht Builders Academy project leader. “They want students to work with the latest technologies.”
The academy will also serve to upgrade and retrain existing marine sector workers.
Sytske Noordmans of Feadship says finding qualified staff is a problem. “We, as a company, cannot solve that. But together we can show what an attractive workplace the yacht-building sector is and the opportunities it offers young people and adults older workers alike.”
The Yacht Builders Academy will also offer retraining courses.