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Honolulu Community College

If you want students to become expert at boat building and repair, train them in a state-of-the-art facility. That’s clearly an underlying premise of the Marine Education and Training Center (METC) at Honolulu Community College (HCC). 
 
“It’s hard to talk about this program without first looking at what an incredible facility we have,” METC Director David Flagler enthuses. “The State of Hawaii has made a major investment in the future of the marine industry, and given young folks that love the water and boats an opportunity to get an A.S. degree in this field and subsequently find employment as a marine technician.” 
 
The METC features a world-class boat yard, with 27,000 square feet of classroom and shop space, right on the waterfront. Up to four 45-foot boats can be brought inside at one time. Cranes and marine travel lifts (which can pick up 50,000-pound boats) enable the Center to do anything a modern marina does, so the students’ training mirrors the work they’ll do after graduation.  
 

"The state-of-the-art facility answers a need in Hawaii for trained people to help the marine industry grow"

The METC curriculum is intentionally very broad-based, providing students with a wide range of skills. Flagler explains that a large percentage of boat building companies and marinas in the U.S. have less than twenty employees. “So, to work in that environment, a person must have a variety of skills,” he says. Graduates of the program will have taken courses that address almost every aspect of the modern vessel, including electrical systems, propulsion, rigging, plumbing, painting, and tooling (prototype hull and mold construction). 
 
Real-World Experience 
 
A typical day for the students consists of one or two hours in the classroom going over the technical aspects of a product or tool they’re about to use, according to Flagler. “Then, they go to the locker rooms, don their jump suits, and dive into their work,” he says.  
 
The Center takes projects from the community; at any one time a sailboat might be in to get its rigging replaced or the students might be repairing structural damage to a fiberglass powerboat. “This is not just theory – it’s real-world work,” Flagler explains. “The students are often faced with unique challenges, and sometimes they come up with a solution that we, the faculty, haven’t even thought of,” he adds. He believes this experience gives students great confidence in their problem-solving skills. 
 
METC students are highly prized for the excellent training they’ve received. “We’ve had boat company owners call and say how glad they are to be able to hire somebody they don’t have to train,” Flagler says. Graduates have been offered enviable jobs, such as the position Joe Malott obtained helping to build the America’s Cup vessel Abracadabra I. (See Career Profile, p. 1.) 
 
A Community Partner 
 
The METC is an active partner in its community and the marine industry. For example, for outboard technicians and dealers it recently brought in renowned experts to teach a special seminar on the new environmentally-friendly four-cylinder outboard motor. It also offers non-credit short courses, such as woodworking, composite repair, surveying, and computer-aided boat design, for the public. Further, the Center introduced to Hawaii a water treatment system for boat washing that captures and removes the heavy metals from the vessels’ paint through a chemical process called flocculation. 
 
It’s a two-way relationship in which both sides win. A good example is found at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. “The people at Pearl Harbor saw the quality of our projects, so they set up an apprenticeship program through which they hire our students part-time,” Flagler explains. “That shows the kind of respect we’re getting from the community.” More than one-half of a recent freshman class was recruited by Pearl Harbor. 
 

"We’ve had boat company owners call and say how glad they are to be able to hire somebody they don’t have to train"

A Good Fit with MATE 
 
At last year’s MATE Summer Institute for faculty development, Flagler quickly realized that HCC could work well with other MATE Center partners. “As we visited research facilities, the marine technicians we saw – even the heads of the research teams with Ph.D.s – were performing many of the skills that we train,” he explains. “For example, aquarium tanks have to be plumbed, with a plumbing system similar to a boat’s; also, objects have to be fabricated out of composite materials just like our students work with.”  
 
“We see our role as nuts and bolts guys in the MATE partnership,” Flagler says. “We offer the support skills that research scientists and others need to do what they want to do.” 
 
A Vision for the Future 
 
Honolulu Community College sees itself – and is becoming – the focal point for marine technology education in the Pacific Rim. “Our focus is on skills for the 21st Century,” Flagler says.  
 
“The state-of-the-art facility answers a need in Hawaii for trained people to help the marine industry grow,” he explains. “It’s an investment for this institution and a partnership with local business, supplying trained employees for the future.” By providing its students with a solid training in boat building and repair, the METC gives these individuals a great career, helps the Hawaiian economy and marine industry, and provides technicians who are needed around the globe. 
 
The METC is still taking applications for fall 2000. For further information on the program, contact David Flagler at (808) 832-3681 or david@hcc.hawaii.edu; or visit METC’s web site: www.hcc.hawaii.edu/tech/marmr.


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This project is supported, in part, by the NationalScience Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation.
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