Career classroom: Viking Yacht offers unexpected lessons for high school students

By Bruno Tedeschi
New Gretna | Aug 6, 2019 at 1:08 pm
From our print edition

Inside Viking Yacht Co.’s 800,000-square-foot facility along the Bass River in New Gretna, some 1,200 employees manufacture custom sport fishing and motor yachts up to 93 feet long that can cost upward of $12 million.

At any given time, 60 to 75 yachts are in production on four different assembly lines in New Gretna and four others at Viking Mullica. With the exception of the yacht engines, generators and a few other parts, almost every component is made in the sprawling facility.

Bruno Tedeschi

It’s an unlikely classroom for high school students, but, thanks to a partnership between the yacht maker and the Ocean County Vocational Technical School, students are learning in a unique manufacturing environment. 

In one section of the facility, students can work alongside woodworkers who create custom cabinets. Or they can work with welders fabricating metal railings. They also can shadow electricians who wire the unfinished hull or the electronics in the finished interior. Or they may work alongside plumbers who install water supply networks and waste and drainage systems.

It’s a high-tech environment that combines machine-driven precision with skilled craftsmanship to produce one-of-a-kind luxury yachts with zero tolerance for errors or flaws.

One of Viking’s perennial challenges has been finding skilled workers to build these top-of-the line yachts. 

In 1995, the company started a program with the Ocean County Vocational Technical School in Toms River to introduce high school students to the craft of boatbuilding. Now in its 24th year, the program has provided training for more than 100 students from the county vo-tech.

It’s a win-win for the company and the high school, said Michael Donahue, the human resources manager at Viking.

“The students get on-the-job training with experienced crew members building the yachts, and they also get to take it back to their class for more in-depth training on what they have seen,” Donahue said. “It benefits the students, the instructors and it benefits our future workforce.”

Viking has been such a strong partner that the Ocean County Vocational Technical School board named it the 2018 Business Partner of the Year.

“A better partner could not have been recognized by our district,” said Karen Homiek, acting superintendent of the school.

“We are fortunate to have a well-established business with the philosophy of giving back to the vocational community through donations, supplies and employment opportunities,” Homiek said. 

Viking Yacht is a member of the school district’s advisory board and the Ocean County Foundation for Vocational Technical Education.  

“They provide direction and support in an industry that makes available numerous pathways for multiple careers,” Homiek said.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of career options at Viking.  The company’s technical workforce includes engineers and fabricators, as well as the aforementioned electricians, carpenters, welders and plumbers.

“What’s great is that we have everything on site,” Donahue said. “It gives the students an opportunity to explore all the different career opportunities and make a decision on their future.”

Justin Praschil is a 1999 graduate of Ocean County Vocational Technical School, where he trained to be a residential electrician. He started working at Viking as a student at the high school and has been employed there ever since.

“It was a good program for someone who wasn’t going to go to college,” Praschil said. “It gets you right into the work force. It worked out great for me. I have great benefits, a guaranteed paycheck every week. The company really takes care of you.

Praschil said attending Ocean County Vocational Technical School gave him a leg up at Viking. 

“I had the edge compared to people my age that didn’t go to a vo-tech,” Praschil said. “I believe it’s what got me to become a lead man and foreman quicker.”

For more information, contact Bruno Tedeschi at btedeschi@careertechnj.org.

ROI-NJ Staff | editorial@roi-nj.com | @ROINJNews