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Immersion day at Eildon

The Boating Industry Association of Victoria congratulated Mike Dalmau, the team at Lake Eildon Houseboat Industry Association (LEHIA), and all of the supporters of the Industry Immersion Day at Eildon’s very vibrant houseboat industry. Around 20 students were immersed and had a great day with thanks also to Fallons Coaches, Belljay Customs, Eildon Industrial Yards, The Houseboat Factory, Rapid Houseboats, Anchorage Houseboats, Status Luxury Houseboats, Edwards Built Family Houseboats, Eildon Boat Club, Spot On Marine and Eildon Outboard Service.

The activity is a great step towards addressing the skills shortage issues that the industry faces, and to introduce young people to all of the career opportunities and pathways. It is a tough market currently with so many universities, colleges, TAFEs, other industries and other options competing for the hearts and minds of the kids coming through.

In his report about the day Mike Dalmau, President of the Lake Eildon Houseboat Industry Association, said the following:

LEHIA in conjunction with the CRLLEN were pleased to invite and host Alexandra Secondary College VCAL Building & Construction Students to a day learning about the career and job opportunities available in their own backyard at Eildon in the very vibrant houseboat industry.

Around 20 students and their teachers were met at ASC by the President of LEHIA, Mike Dalmau. On the trip out to Eildon on a Fallon’s Coach the students received a welcome and introduction to the houseboat industry.

First stop was Belljay Customs where owner Tim Ewert showed the students through his site which included houseboats undergoing maintenance and upgrades; a brand new houseboat under construction and most interestingly the mould for new speedboats to be built by Tim. Tim shared how he commenced in the Industry and introduced his apprentice who spoke enthusiastically about his work. Tim is eager to employ more apprentices.

Back on the bus and next stop was the Eildon Industrial Yards. We commenced with visiting Rapid Houseboats and were warmly welcomed by Nathan & Emily Hudson with their young daughter. Nathan explained how he worked for the Raaymaker Family at the adjoining The Houseboat Factory. After many years of learning the houseboat business, the Raaymaker Family altered the direction of their business which led to Nathan & Emily starting Rapid Houseboats. It was great to hear that The Houseboat Factory and Rapid Houseboats still work closely together. Nathan showed the students a luxury day boat they were building as well as a new houseboat and others undergoing maintenance and upgrades.

Next visit was Anchorage Houseboats where the students were welcomed by owner Phil Gourlay. Phil explained that he undertook an apprenticeship as a Boilermaker specializing in stainless steel in Shepparton. When Phil purchased Anchorage, it was located in the former Grout Factory on the Back Road entrance to Eildon township. With the advent of the new larger houseboats Phil entered into an arrangement with the then owners of the current factory and with some alterations (replacing an end wall with a giant roller door) and this has become the home of Anchorage Houseboats.

Anchorage Houseboats is building a number of new large houseboats with orders for more over the next few years. Anchorage has an Electrical Department which is at the leading edge of Solar Electric Technology.

Phil gave the students some great basic advice on obtaining a job and learning the skills. Phil also let the students know that the pay rates for skilled tradespeople in the houseboat industry are very good. He is willing to and has positions available for apprentices to start now.

Next visit was Status Luxury Houseboats. Due to the growth of the houseboat industry, Status had this new factory built recently; the first new factory in Eildon since the 1960’s. Students were able to see houseboats in the various stages of production; in the shed they looked enormous. Creating great interest was the first all solar electric powered houseboat being built; this includes the twin motors being electric as well. This will involve the latest solar electric technology and new battery storage technology.

After a short walk we were welcomed by Rod & Lisa Edwards at Edwards Built Family Houseboats. Rod & Lisa first built a houseboat in Melbourne and then setup in Eildon in 2004, the longest houseboat builders in Eildon. Their sons Brock and Chevy have grown up locally and are now integral parts of the family business. Brock related how he learnt welding from his teacher at ASC. Both Brock & Chevy related how

proud they feel when they see a family enjoying themselves on a houseboat they built. Rod & Lisa also emphasized the excellent long-standing relationships they have with their clients. They have built 5 houseboats for one of their clients.

The Eildon Boat Club welcomed the students for Lunch. Dean Aitken, EBC General Manager, highlighted the size of EBC and the number of houseboats moored there. Dean spoke of the opportunities available at EBC to manage the fleet of around 400 houseboats.

Deputy Mayor of MSC Cr. Damien Gallagher had been on the tour and spoke to the students about the abundant opportunities to work, live and thrive locally.

The next exciting section of the tour was when the students walked down to the EBC Welcome Dock where Paul Williams from Houseboat Assist had moored a new luxury houseboat. This houseboat had been recently built by Anchorage Houseboats and due to their great relationship with their clients, permission was given for the students to inspect the houseboat.

WOW was a common expression as the students walked onboard. The steps leading to a storage compartment in the pontoons created some interest. The students then understood that these new houseboats being built at Eildon are World Class. We thank the owners for making their houseboat available.

A very important part of the Industry is the servicing not only of the houseboat motors, but also of all the other toys (speedboats, wake boats, fishing boats and jet skis).

Greg welcomed the students to Spot On Marine where he explained the important role and knowledge required by a Marine Mechanic. Once qualified you can travel the world and find work and then hopefully settle back in Eildon to raise a family.

The other very long-standing Marine Business is Eildon Outboard Service. The students were welcomed by Tony Keddell and his daughter Anita. Tony grew up in Eildon and learnt his trade; then he established Eildon Outboard Service. Anita grew up in the family business and now not only helps manage the business but also the Chandlery Shop with all the supplies you would need for your boat. Part of the business are the 400 storage sheds where people store their toys.

All businesses expressed they have vacancies, and all are most willing to give the students a go and offer them Apprenticeships. Most said they would be willing to take them on during school holidays to see if they liked the work.

On the trip back to Alexandra, when asked about their day, one student expressed: – “All the businesses were great; all the people appeared very genuine and friendly and wanting to provide us with opportunities”. There appeared to be consensus with these thoughts.

As President of LEHIA it was most gratifying to hear this feedback; in fact, I was very proud of how each business presented itself. It very much came out today that we respect we are in competition with each other but when we work together, we all win; the industry has never been busier.

I think the words of Cr. Gallagher summed up the day; “today the students were presented with abundant opportunities to work, to live and to thrive locally in an industry that is world class”.