Maine’s Marine Industry Leader Offers ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Opportunities
Hinckley Yachts has set the standard for every aspect of the yachting experience since its inception in Southwest Harbor in 1928, and that continues when it comes to addressing the national, regional, and local worker shortage which challenges almost every business in every sector.
“Let me put it this way,” says Kirk Ritter, the current GM of Hinckley Yacht Services in Southwest Harbor, Maine. “We have the best team of marine professionals in the industry leading all our departments, and most have been here 30 years or more. If you want to live and work essentially across the street from one of the country’s top national parks (Acadia) in one of the most beautiful states in the country and learn from the best of the best, we’d love to hear from you!”
COVID brought on a spending boom for the entire outdoor industry, and the marine industry was a huge beneficiary of this trend. The surge of new boat orders and boat owners spending more time on the water led to a dramatic increase in demand for everything yacht harbors do, and an already tight labor market was squeezed even harder.
“We need top carpenters, electricians and mechanics,” says Ritter, “and not necessarily in that order. Traditionally we wanted to hire people with marine industry experience, but there just aren’t enough experienced people around in those disciplines anymore. If you’re a top professional at any of these three trades, we have the expert team that can teach and train you. That’s why we’re calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a career and life change that might not happen again.”
Ritter says there are opportunities in positions throughout the yard, not just the top trade disciplines, but to keep up with growing customer demand, those three categories are his top short-term priorities. Any potential team members with exceptional sales and customer service skills are also always in demand.
“We also do everything we can to keep you here once you join us,” says Ritter. “We have a unique team culture where we work together to help all team members grow and develop, and we do everything we can to support those who want to attend outside training programs to further develop their skills.”
Hinckley currently employs 60 people at its Southwest Harbor Service Center, and another 200 at its manufacturing facility in Trenton, Maine. The company would love to increase its workforce in the state by at least 10-15% in the next year and is committed to supporting regional workforce development and the marine trade schools in New England. To that end, the company announced in April that it was implementing the Hinckley Yachts Student Loan Assistance Program (HYSLAP), an employer-paid student loan program for employees graduating from post-secondary school technical trade programs.
“We are very committed to developing the talents of our existing team members,” says Geoff Berger, CEO of The Hinckley Company. “The HYSLAP program will support that, as do all our managers and team leaders on an ongoing basis by training and teaching our time-honored methods on the job. HYSLAP was also developed working in close partnership with Maine’s The Landing School, one of the top marine trade schools in the country.”
The Landing School is one of New England’s leading institutions for career development in the marine and yachting space and is a vital partner for the industry, especially during this unprecedented labor shortage. While many of their current students come to the school directly from high school in search of an Associate Degree and to begin new careers, an even larger percentage are recent college graduates or “career changers” who are leaving more traditional careers in search of a rewarding lifestyle and work-life balance in a post-COVID world. Marine industry careers can take you anywhere in the world, creating objects of substance and beauty that become part or people’s lives.
“We are pleased to continue the decades-long partnership with Hinckley Yachts,” says Sean Fawcett, President of The Landing School. “Over the years, numerous Landing School graduates have established significant and rewarding careers at Hinckley, and this recent collaboration through the HYSLAP program is testament to the value that premier boat building and service companies such as Hinckley place on effective and relevant education.”
Hinckley is a market leader nationally and locally, and part of what continues to attract people to Hinckley in Maine is the culture and legacy of the company. Economic development professionals and employment experts alike acknowledge that Hinckley’s name is well-known around the country and the world, and much like LL Bean and other signature Maine brands, it is part of what defines the state. Hinckley owners tend to be “customers for life” and include not only DownEast Mainers and New Englanders, but new economy trailblazers for the tech world and well-known people such as Martha Stewart, Chuck Townsend, David Rockefeller, and Roger Penske.
Hinckley’s legacy is forever intertwined with the culture and brand of Maine not just because the company was founded there, but because its very essence reflects the values of what it means to be from Maine: hard work, a commitment to innovation and excellence, and a love of the water and the outdoors that everyone on the current team at the SW Harbor Service Center shares. From the company’s early experimentation with fiberglass boat building in the 1940s and 50s to the manufacture of the signature Bermuda 40 sailboats in 1959, Hinckley has started most key trends in the industry since the 1930s.
“People want to work for winning companies that have demonstrated success, innovation and leadership,” says Neal Harrell, a Newport, Rhode Island-based executive recruiter. “We know that Maine needs to attract highly skilled workers from out of state to meet the state’s growing demand for economic growth, and Hinckley is a well-known brand that continues to push the envelope on many levels. Hinckley is one of the handful of brands that helps sell the state.”