Boatbuilders in the Netherlands are being urged to boost recruitment and offer more training

An industry report into the training of boatyard workers in the Netherlands says weaknesses in schooling combined with a lack of forward-looking management make the Dutch sector insufficiently future-proof.

Written by an advisory employers-employees group from Dutch builders, marinas and engineering firms, it urges yards to boost recruitment and offer more life-long training to existing staff.

Vocational enrolment is low, given the demand for labour, says the report. It adds Dutch yards see vocational training not always delivering the quality needed to keep the Netherlands a market leader in steel and aluminium boats and yachts.

It says the success of Dutch superyacht makers – whose annual sales doubled to €1.2bn in the 2014-17 period – hides the so-so performance of makers of boats and yachts to 30m who “are in troubled waters”.

The report says their workers are, on average, 45 years’ old, only 15% take training courses and staff performance reports are rare. Yet these companies face a shrinking market due to the greying of boaters.

The report’s author – a group known by its Dutch acronym of OOM – advises the Dutch marine sector on training and career issues. It sees healthy demand for rental, superyacht and engineering companies. And marinas. Hobbled by vacancy rates of 30% these days, marinas can transform into waterfront leisure sites, says the report.

Dutch megayacht builders struggle as hard as small yards to find qualified labour. “Superyacht makers have different competency demands than yards building smaller,” Gerwin Klok, head of the 195-member Dutch yacht building industry trade group, told IBI. “Whereas the latter require all-round craftsmanship, superyacht builders require highly specialised people working within specific disciplines,” he adds.

Of the six vocational training centres in the Netherlands, two focus on yacht building. The OOM report is based on visits to 20 companies active in boat and yacht building. Among its conclusions:

  • Many companies are “too busy” for training and rely on product-specific training from suppliers
  • The majority of the visited companies lack multi-annual planning for the development of the company or its products
  • Many yards see the hiring qualified labour as a “big problem.” At large builders, 30% of workers can be self-employed specialists in disciplines and technologies that did not exist 10 years ago
  • Companies often find training courses irrelevant. They are not specific enough, or are theory-heavy at the expense of technical subjects