February 17, 2023

Article Chula Vista Press Releases San Diego CA

Chula Vista Boatbuilders Graduate from Marine Group Boat Works Welding Certification Program funded by MARAD Small Shipyard Grant

(Chula Vista, CA, Feb. 17, 2023):  Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW), a family-owned boat repair and construction facility, is pleased to announce that 30 of its boatbuilders recently graduated from MGBW’s in-house Welding Certification Program. The Welding Program was launched in 2021 with support from a Small Shipyards Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD). In total, $859,250 was spent to develop the curriculum, secure an instructor, equip the welding classroom and sustain the vital program with a cost share of 67% covered by the grant with the remaining expenses covered by MGBW.

Welding Department Supervisor Kenny Swanson took pride in overseeing the program. “On-the-job training can be more beneficial than traditional schooling. I’m seeing firsthand how this program has sharpened our welders’ skillsets while instilling greater confidence in their boatbuilding and repair capabilities.”

In San Diego, there is a demand for trade schools with less than a handful of programs offering welding specific programs. San Diego community colleges and trade schools have created a pathway for a younger generation to familiarize themselves with blue collar work. As the older generation starts to retire, these programs— including MGBW’s—provide the opportunity for a new work force to come in and learn a high paying skilled trade at a young age. On average, the starting salary for welders in San Diego is $44,000, which according to the Center for Excellence for Labor Market Research, is just above the $38,000 living wage for San Diego.

“The college path to becoming a lawyer or a doctor is not for everyone. You can make a living wage and excellent medical benefits with the maritime industry straight out of high school,” said Swanson. “You just need to be willing to show up on time, work hard and have a positive attitude.”

Furthermore, the maritime industry is made up of companies like MGBW that provide superior health benefits and compensation package. In 2022, Marine Group spent close to $2 million in employee healthcare with an average spending of $12,000 per employee to keep insurance and out-of-pocket expenses low for its employees. Not only that, but it has also provided a 20% match in 401K programs for more than ten years and spends an average of $900,000 each year on employee morale and incentive programs which provides OSHA-approved safety boots, lunches, celebrations, bonuses and rewards to its employees.

The welding program offered several certifications, all of which were in accordance with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) welding certification standards for TIG and MIG welding of 5XXX, 6XXX groups of aluminum, and steel FCAW.

More than 30 employees enrolled in the welding program were able to certify or re-certify for welder certifications. In addition, 22 employees that held entry level positions including welder helpers and fire-watchers have now been promoted to certified welders.

“There has been a shortage of qualified, skilled welders in the maritime industry for years now. The only solution was taking matters into our own hands, and thankfully, we have a Maritime Administration that supports small businesses that provides subsidies for apprenticeship training programs like this,” said Todd Roberts, president of MGBW. “This welding training program has allowed us to empower from within and equip our existing team with skills and certifications that they can take anywhere.”

With the same grant, MGBW was also able to purchase new electric air compressors which allows the production employees to operate a variety of equipment such as handheld tools as grinders, sanders, wrenches, needle scalers and shears. The air compressors provide an increased volume of compressed air using less electricity and eliminate the need to rent additional diesel-powered compressors, thereby allowing the yard to get closer to achieving its zero-emissions goals.


About Maritime Administration’s Small Shipyard Grant Program
MARAD’s Small Shipyard Grant Program strengthens the economic competitiveness of shipyards by providing grants that can be used to purchase equipment or provide employee training. In addition, these grants can support the purchase of American-made manufacturing equipment that support a wide range of jobs throughout our nation’s manufacturing base. Applications for grants are due by 5:00 pm EST on February 27, 2023. Additional information can be found here, or by contacting David M. Heller, Associate Administrator for Business and Finance Development, Maritime Administration, Room W21-318, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20590;

About Marine Group Boat Works

Marine Group Boat Works is a family-owned, full-service vessel construction and repair company with two facilities on the San Diego Bay and one facility in Los Cabos. Its largest facility in Chula Vista, California is about one million square feet with over 2,000 feet of dockage and boasts a 665-ton travelift, rough terrain cranes, a machine shop, metal working equipment and a propeller shop. Its sister yard San Jose del Cabo encompass over 300,000 square feet of land and water and feature a 150-ton travelift. Between the two facilities, MGBW employs over 200 ABS-certified welders, shipfitters, pipefitters, mechanics, electricians, painters and other specialists. It is also a small business Navy GSA contractor, Master Ship Repairer and holds a Navy Agreement for Boat Repair. For more information, visit


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