Larry Jenc has been working in the marine technology industry for more than four decades and, until recently, thought he was part of a dying profession.
A combination of low pay and a shortage of boats to work on contributed to a significant decline in the number of marine technicians like Jenc.
The Minnesota native, who grew up on the water, is trying to do his part in keeping his profession from becoming obsolete. Three years after helping to start a pilot program to teach marine technology to high school students in his home state, Jenk will be working at Fred's Shed at this year's Baltimore Boat Show.
The show is scheduled for the Baltimore Convention Center from Thursday through Sunday.
"Definitely the biggest focus for right now in this industry is the deep shortage of young technicians," Jenc said this past Thursday from Boston, where he was giving the same hourly seminars on a variety of marine technology topics that he will present in Baltimore this week.
This marks the second year Fred's Shed has made its way to a variety of boat shows, and the first time it will be in Balimore. Part of this year's program will include students from five different Anne Arundel Count high schools who are part of the Center of Applied Technology South's Marine Repair Technology program.
The CAT South program is run with the support of the Annapolis-based American Boat and Yacht Council.
"We started to change our focus maybe three or four years ago, to try to get younger people excited about the marine industry," aid ABYC president John Adey. "When you see the kids that are getting involved, they start out liking boats, or working on boats. You give them a textbook that walks them through everything from tying up boats to repairing them to fiberglasssing to paint work. It's a tool in their hands they didn't have before."
The CAT South's Marine Repair Technology program will be sending approximately 20 students from Annapolis, Broadneck, Severna Park South River and Southern high schools to this year's Baltimore Boat Show to meet with factory representatives and dealers, show managers and National Marine Manufacturers Association officials to learn about the industry and hear a formal presentation on the state of the industry.
"The key here why NMMA want to generate an excitement among the kids, there's a lot more than how to fix an outboard," Adey said. "We want excite them, the glitz of the new boats, it's a lot more exciting than being in a classroom."