June 28, 2022
By Allegra Smith-Herriot
The third graduate in our Canadian marine education series is an Ontario resident, Greg Smith.
After graduating from Georgian College, Greg has come full circle and now instructs part-time for the same marine program he graduated from.
In this interview, Greg speaks to his incredible experience at Georgian College and highlights the importance of getting your foot in the door and doing what you love, which led him to his current marine technician position at Marina del Rey.
Full Name: Greg Smith
School: Georgian College – Midland Campus
Program: Marine Engine Mechanic Techniques
Graduating Year: 2013
Current Workplace: Marina Del Rey, Orillia, ON
What is your background in the marine industry? Tell us a bit about how you got into the marine industry.
I kind of fell into a career in the boating industry when I was 19. I originally went to school to become an electrician, but after graduating I didn’t think it was the right fit for me. I was looking for something else, and a family friend who worked at a boat manufacturer mentioned they could use some extra help.
I started out, doing mainly carpentry and small jobs. By the time I left 3 years later, I had experience in every aspect of building boats from the mold up. I wanted to learn more about the mechanical aspects of boats, so I moved up north and started the Marine Engine Program at Georgian College.
What made you choose your program?
Georgian College was the only institution in Ontario offering any training on boats.
What was your path after graduation and what are you currently doing now?
After I graduated, Georgian College set me up with a co-op placement at Marina Del Rey, and I’ve been there ever since. I’m currently the lead Technician at the marina, with many other responsibilities within the company like haul-out, and equipment maintenance, etc.
Where do you instruct and what specific courses do you teach?
I’m currently a part-time instructor at the Midland campus for Georgian College. I mainly teach the apprentices things like sterndrive propulsion, AC and DC electrical systems, and Outboard EFI Systems.
Are there any notable differences in the program from when you were a student compared to now as an instructor?
The boating industry is one that is constantly evolving, and the staff at the Midland campus do a very good job with keeping up with the times. All of the instructors have years of on-the-job experience, or currently work on boats when they aren’t at the college. The marine program is constantly updated to introduce new equipment and techniques for working on boats.
I’m finding that all of the students come from a variety of different backgrounds and are very eager to start working. The Midland campus is in the heart of Ontario’s cottage and boating country. Being so close to where the education is going to be applied is quite exciting for most students.
How have you seen the marine industry change over the past couple of years?
The technology we are starting to see on boats is a huge leap forward from when I started thirteen years ago. The digital age is starting to trickle its way into every system on board. Environmental considerations are also being noticed in engine manufacturing and chemical production. We are starting to see more “Green” fluids and oils, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and stricter emission requirements. Which I am definitely very excited to see.
What was a highlight of your program?
The instructors were so knowledgeable, and helpful. Everything about the program including the campus, course content, and equipment, was so well directed towards a career in boats. The co-op placement at the end of the program is such a huge advantage to getting your foot in the door as well.
What is one piece of advice you could give someone entering the marine industry?
As with any job, there are difficult days. We do work outside in the elements, which comes with its own challenges. We do have to cram into some tight spots from time to time. Hopefully you aren’t afraid of spiders. At the end of the day though, I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else.
What could be better than taking a boat for a sea trial on a beautiful summer day? When I get to tell a customer that their boat is ready for the weekend, they get so excited. I’ve been hugged many times. People have a very special relationship with their boats, and it’s really cool to be able to be a part of that. Who wouldn’t want to work and play on the water for the rest of their lives?
Are you a power boater, sailor, or both?
I grew up on the water, and I have been in a boat since I was in diapers. We always had power boats when I was younger, so that’s where my heart is. However, I did own a small sailboat for a short amount of time. If you’re not in a rush to get anywhere, and you don’t mind putting in a little work, sailing is actually quite fun too.
Your fondest/funniest memory out on the water?
Most of the memories I have involve the water at some point. I’ve spent my entire life on boats, beaches, lakes, and rivers so it’s hard to pinpoint one memory. I proposed to my fiancé on a dock next to our boat during a weekend trip with my brother and his wife. That moment was really special, but so was the entire trip.
Allegra Smith-Herriot is a recent (Sport Media) graduate (from Ryerson University) as well as an active sailor and power boater on Georgian Bay. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org