The future of the boating world hangs on encouraging young people to enter the industry – and Mercury is doing something about it.
The Mercury Academy is operating out of Victoria in partnership with Head Start to educate interested students with a Certificate III in Marine Mechanical Technology.
It’s an apprenticeship that boasts the promise of employment on completion of a four-year hands-on learning experience.
Mercury’s MercTECH/Training Manager Trevor Henri said having the Academy in Victoria is just the first step in a much larger plan.
“Rolling out the program nationally is essential to the future of the industry,” Trevor said.
“I manage the technical support and the training for our dealer network. I am constantly getting calls from our dealership businesses that are in desperate need of qualified people.
“Without these qualified technicians our industry really can’t continue to succeed. It’s one of the biggest challenges we’re facing.”
Currently Mercury has five students in the process of completing the apprenticeship across Melbourne – in Philip Island Marine, Nautical Marine, Port Side Marine and St Kilda Boat sales and Service Centre.
“The automotive mechanics industry is so popular I think that people forget the boating world – so our job is to raise us much awareness and interest as we can,” Trevor said.
“Working in the marine industry is actually an incredible lifestyle. You’re not just operating out of a workshop all day. You’re out in the open air, testing engines and enjoying the water.”
It’s a sentiment shared by year-12 student and Mercury Academy apprentice Dimitri Giannikopoulos.
“Working with Mercury Marine means that I have the incredible opportunity to get my hands on state-of-the-art technology.
“So far, I’m being taught how to diagnose outboard problems, repair and service engines and engine components and how to assemble essential systems.
“I’ve only been at Mercury for a few months, and I’ve already been out on the water to perform boat tests,” Dimitri said.
“When we’re doing this testing, we start the engine and operate it through its speed range and collect performance data. To be working that closely with Mercury equipment is something I didn’t envisage being able to do so soon.
“Given that I’m pretty passionate about fishing and boating it has all been a really exciting experience for me.
“And I have to say for some of my friends at school, who are struggling to find a career direction, they’re pretty jealous that I’m out of class and in a boat in the sunshine.”
Though he was always interested in mechanics, Dimitri wasn’t sure what exact direction to head down. But after speaking to the Head Start coordinator at school, he left feeling sure that marine mechanics was where his interest stood.
For Trevor, Head Start plays an essential role in recruiting the appropriate students.
“We’re looking for students who are genuinely passionate about boating and fishing. Having these Head Start coordinators embedded in schools Victoria-wide means they can really get to know each student, and direct them accordingly,” Trevor said.
“Unlike a lot of other apprenticeships, where once you finish highschool you’re left alone, Head Start mentors each apprentice until they’ve finished the certificate. It’s a really supportive system that’s working with a lot of students, not just in the marine industry.
“Dimitri has come to us enthusiastic and ready to learn. He started with a work trial earlier last year after coming out of lockdown – we got him in as soon as we could after that.”
Though it’s early days, Dimitri can already see himself choosing a future in the marine industry.
“I’ve really been loving my experience so far,” Dimitri said.
“I’ve learnt a lot in a really short space of time – more than I even expected I could.
“Going into it I knew that Mercury was a reputable brand, and I was particularly keen to learn about their technology. I’ve had absolutely no regrets. The people I’ve been working with are really nice and effective teachers.
“Mercury isn’t just in Australia, it’s all over the world. I can not only see a career working for Mercury in the future, I can see myself travelling all over the world with them.
“Getting to have my hobby be my apprenticeship, and hopefully my career, means I look forward to every single day in the workshop.”
Trevor has been working closely with other states to begin rolling out the program with a Head Start equivalent across Australia and New Zealand.
“This is just the beginning of our venture into fixing the skills shortage,” Trevor said.
“We know that demand for boats is only getting more – so it goes without saying that skilled professionals will be in even higher demand.
“We’re eager to continue engaging more students in these programs and support our current apprentices as they finish their apprenticeships and enter the workforce.”
Year-12 student and Mercury Academy apprentice Dimitri Giannikopoulos