Lanier Technical College has a specific charge: workforce development.
There’s a big gap to fill, however, when it comes to educating students about the boating and marine industries, which are a critical source of economic activity and tourism for Hall County.
Since the closing a few years ago of a marine engine technology study program at North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville, nothing like it has opened elsewhere.
But that will change in August when Lanier Tech launches its own marine engine technology program for the fall semester with a first cohort of about 20 students.
“We’ve taken the ball and acquired all of their useful equipment,” said Christian Tetzlaff, dean of the applied technology division at Lanier Tech.
The Lanier Tech program seeks to help fill marine engine repair and service jobs with businesses which count on Lake Lanier’s attracting visitors and locals.
“It’s desperately needed,” said Brent Danneman, vice president of sales at the Gainesville location of Park Marine Boating Centers. “There is a tremendous shortage of marine technicians.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, small engine mechanics, such as those working on “motorcycles, motorboats or outdoor power equipment,” earn an annual mean wage of $38,000 in Georgia.
In May 2017, there were 730 motorboat mechanics and service technicians employed across the Peach State, one of the highest employment totals of any state in the nation, with the heaviest concentrations in North Georgia along Lake Lanier, Lake Burton, Lake Allatoona and others.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5 percent growth in marine technician employment between 2016 and 2026.
The marine engine program has many parallels with a motorsports vehicle technology program Lanier Tech already operates, in which businesses partner with the college to offer students internships and on-the-job training opportunities.
For example, the motorsports mechanic program benefits from Lanier Tech’s easy geographical access to Road Atlanta in Hall County.
“It’s a great example of what some people would call niche programs,” Tetzlaff said. We “basically partner with industries, manufacturers, and in this case, boat dealers.”
Danneman said he would offer his business for onsite training to students.
Lanier Tech, which just opened its new campus off Ga. 365 in North Hall in January, has a training lab and facility built for the marine program, and equipment donations from the likes of Yamaha have been flowing in.
It will be the only college in the state offering such a field of study.
“Where we sit in proximity to Atlanta and Lake Lanier, we are serving our local industry,” Tetzlaff said. “There’s a lot of people (locally) that love working on boats and in the industry.”
The program can be finished in about a year and a half, Tetzlaff said, or about five semesters at the technical college.
Lanier Tech officials said they’ve received support for the marine engine program from the likes of the Marine Trade Association of Metro Atlanta and the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association.
“We’re just thrilled about that new program,” Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said.