Great Lakes Boat Building School to expand Cedarville campus, groundbreaking planned

What’s happening: A ceremonial groundbreaking is scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the expansion of the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville. The school, the only such marine school in the Great Lakes region and one of only four throughout the country, plans a 10,000-square-foot addition to its Cedarville campus, nearly doubling in size. The addition will also allow the school to more than double its annual graduating class.

What it is: Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS) opened in 2006 as a wooden boat building school. In 2020, GLBBS became accredited to offer a Marine Service Technology program, which prepares students to work in a wide range of marine fabrication and maintenance settings. Each program is a 12-month course. GLBBS is a Mercury (Marine) University exclusive school and recently signed an articulation agreement with North Central Michigan College.

Why it’s important: With such few boat building schools of its standing, GLBBS draws students from neighboring states and even internationally, all the while providing residents of the eastern Upper Peninsula with important career options in the marine industry. “With our students, we've had 100 percent job placement over the last six years,” says Thomas Coates, director of development for GLBBS. The $3.8 million expansion will allow the school to expand its class size from 24 to 50 students each year. Graduates end up working everywhere from local boatyards to as far away as Sweden, Coates says.

What’s planned: The 10,000-square-foot expansion will provide classes some much needed space, Coates says, with the wooden boat building program staying in the original facility and the Marine Service Technology program moving to the new addition. The school also plans to begin offering a marine electronics program, the first of its kind in the United States. While the groundbreaking celebration is ceremonial, actual construction is set to begin in spring 2023.

Student body: “Our students come to Cedarville from all over. We’ve had a few international students; I know we've got one student from Kentucky in this cohort. And about 30 percent of our enrollment are veterans that take advantage of the G.I. Bill — we just got elevated from bronze status to silver status by Michigan Military Affairs for our being veteran-friendly,” Coates says. “Since we’re accredited, it allows for students to qualify for federal financial aid like Pell Grants and student loans. A lot of our students come from low- to moderate-income backgrounds or families.”

Great Lakes Boat Building School is located at 485 S. Meridian St. in Cedarville.