The Boating Industry Association Ltd (BIA) hosted its second Skills and Training Pathways tour of the Coomera TAFE Marine Campus and Gold Coast Marine Precinct, involving careers advisers and teachers from six High Schools and Colleges.

The initiative forms part of the marine careers drive the BIA has prioritised in 2024-5, aiming to showcase the extent of opportunities for people of all ages and interests in the boating and broader marine industry Australia-wide.

The tour started at the TAFE Queensland Coomera Marine Campus, the $12 million purpose-built facility adjacent to the Coomera Marine Precinct. The group toured the five classrooms equipped with the latest CAD software alongside traditional tools, warehouse-style workshops with high-tech equipment, and student amenities to understand the courses and the myriad opportunities the Australian marine industry offers.

During the tour, the representatives from schools across the Gold Coast were able to observe First, Second the Third-Year apprentices undertaking marine electrical and mechanical work, metal fabrication, marine craft construction, fibreglass, lamination, marine textiles and upholstery.

In 2023, close to 400 students have enrolled in marine construction, maintenance and related services at the state-of-the-art TAFE centre.

“The courses are very flexible to suit students at the various stages of their careers, available in three-week blocks that fit in with their work and other commitments,” explained Nick De-Vaal, TAFE Delivery Manager.

“There are around 300 students here at various times, from the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and northern NSW, all of them working within their chosen fields.”

From there, the group headed to The Boat Works where Marketing Manager, Charmaine Webb and General Manager, Shane Subichin presented an overview of the facility’s evolution and continued expansion.

“In just four years The Boat Works has added an entire 25-acre superyacht yard catering to vessels up to 55-metres,” Charmaine said, referring to the northern yard.

“The two yards together, over 55 acres, are home to 80 marine businesses spanning the ‘A to Z’ of services, five haulout machines with a capacity of up to 300 tonnes, and 60 refit sheds, which are already fully booked. The faster we build the infrastructure – whether that’s marina berths, sheds, showrooms or office space – the demand is there from owners, businesses and trades who service these incredible vessels from all over the world.

“In the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, there is no slowing down the visitation of superyachts and cruising vessels. More boats means more jobs.”

Of the 14 careers advisers who undertook the BIA famil, several were familiar with the Coomera Marine Precinct following similar tours in 2023 but even they were astounded at the pace of development in the Precinct and the extent of the opportunities available for students choosing their options in years 10 to 12.

“I visited Telwater, Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard and The Boat Works last year, but it’s changed even in six months,” said one delegate from The BUSY School, Southport.

“It’s just phenomenal! Students and their families would be really impressed with the world-class facilities and the great atmosphere – you can tell it’s a thriving industry.”

To address the industry-wide skills shortage, the BIA has a number of projects and one of those is  to partner with TAFE Queensland to support the range of courses and to deliver remote learning solutions to regional areas, as well as highlighting the diverse career prospects within the marine industry to address the industry-wide skills shortage.

This partnership comes on the back of the success of the BIA’s collaboration with the Australian Industry Trade College (AITC), now in its second year. Their Boating Industry Academy will soon extend its reach when AITC Redlands Campus opens in Cleveland, south-east Brisbane in July.

An option for students to ‘dip a toe in’ before they commit is the TAFE Trade Taster Program. Specifically designed for Year 10 students and fully-funded by the Queensland State Government, the Trade Tester Program allows eligible high school students to gain insight into a potential career path they are considering without committing to a full qualification or apprenticeship.

Students participate in training one day per week for nine weeks, scheduled around their other subjects and aimed at giving them a deeper understanding of a qualification that assists them in making an informed decision when choosing a TAFE at School course or continuing with further studies.

“In 2024, we will ramp up our marine careers focus, promoting the wide range of pathways into the marine industry for people with diverse backgrounds and skills, and the exciting opportunities on offer to work with local, national and international companies,” explained BIA’s Andrew Fielding.

“Careers advisers, parents and students are often surprised to learn there’s more to the marine industry than building boats,” he continued.

“As well as boat design and construction, there’s interior fit out, vessel repair, maintenance and refit, marine engines and electronics, sales and marketing, management, crewing, marina services and marine tourism.