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New boatbuilding professor brings industry experience

This fall, students can start two new diploma programs in boatbuilding at Beaufort County Community College. The college welcomes Connor Jones aboard as its new lead boatbuilding professor. Jones brings six years of production management experience at Grady-White Boats to the program.

“I grew up around boats,” said Jones. “I remember seeing the local boat builders here testing their boats, running up and down the river. It’s always been a personal interest and hobby of mine to be around boats. So, I decided to take all my experience in the industry and take that as an opportunity to teach other people about it.”

Like many of the other instructors in the Business & Industry Division at Beaufort, Jones spent his career in the private sector. He studied mechanical design and industrial technology management at East Carolina University. During his final year of college, he started an internship with Grady-White Boats, the world-class boat manufacturer headquartered in Greenville and employing around 400. That internship led to a full time position in bill of material and production support. He advanced to production supervisor in the lamination department, overseeing the production of small parts and resin transfer molding parts. In his most recent role at the company, he worked as a process improvement engineer, a new position that worked to eliminate inefficiencies and troubleshoot production problems throughout the manufacturing process.

His role as a production supervisor prepared him for leading a classroom. “I always made a point to work with people one-on-one to help them understand the process they were completing,” said Jones of his relationship with the 15 people he supervised.

The program offers two diplomas in Boat Manufacturing & Service and Boat Building. Each diploma can be completed in three semesters and provide concentrations in Composite Boat Manufacturing, Marine Services and Boat Building. Boat Manufacturing & Service will teach contemporary boat production, including fiberglass and electronics, whereas Boat Building will teach wooden craftsmanship for high-end production.

“It is a short program, and it will allow flexibility for people to work as well,” said Jones, making the program ideal for high school graduates who want to get to work quickly and for people who are looking for a career change. The college will offer evening classes, as well as day classes. Classes will take place at Beaufort County Skills Center on Page Rd. thanks to a partnership with the Beaufort County Committee of 100. The Golden LEAF Foundation awarded BCCC $200,000 in grant funding to kick-start the program.

“The biggest advantage of this program will be that it gives you a broader skill set than if you go straight into the workforce,” he said. “If you go through the employer, they may put you in one position, and you will only learn one skill. This program will train you in fiberglass, electronics, and plumbing. Your flexibility and skillset can get you a higher paying job.”

The diplomas will give students a diversity of skills, opening up new job opportunities and letting them experience different parts of the production process to see what appeals to them most. These skills can also train students to work in a dealership or start their own boat repair business.

“At Grady-White, there was a demand for skilled people and people with a passion who want to do this kind of work. Anyone can get a job in the boat industry, but it may just be a job for them. People coming into a program like this have a passion for it.” The College believes manufacturers will be pleased to hire and invest time into an employee with a broader skill set and a passion, because they will stay with the company longer and move between departments or advance into leadership.

Beaufort County Community College has a rolling admissions process, meaning that students can apply now. Classes for the boatbuilding program will open for registration in April. Go to www.beaufortccc.edu/apply or call 252-940-6237.