PropTalk caught up with Annapolis boater Emily Decker, longtime marine industry professional who runs the workforce development program at the Marine Trades Association of Maryland (MTAM). Here's a sample of what's on her mind as we approach spring on the Chesapeake.

emily decker
Emily Decker runs the workforce development program at the Marine Trades Association of Maryland (MTAM). 

How long have you been in the marine industry? 

I’ve worked in the marine industry on and off since the 1990s, first with a fledgling SpinSheet Magazine, then I ran a one-design sailboat racing class (which included professional sailors). I took some time away from the marine industry to pursue a brief career in marketing and advertising before returning and working at J-World Annapolis for 10 years. In 2023, it was on to MTAM!

Tell us about MTAM’s workforce development program.

The Maryland Trades Industry Partnership (MTIP) is a collaborative program run by MTAM to recruit young adults who may want to pursue a career in the marine trades or to provide access to continuing education to young marine professionals. MTIP partners include maritime companies across Maryland, local workforce development organizations, and educational institutions including colleges, secondary and trade schools.

Applicants are placed in six-week, paid internships with one of our industry partners where they get a hands-on learning experience with the ultimate goal of permanent employment at the end of the six weeks.

The program is subsidized by a grant from the state of Maryland’s Department of Labor.
The program also includes an incumbent worker training initiative that consists of matching funds for training existing workers as well as supplementing group training for the industry. This continued professional development is critical for maintaining and growing a sustainable workforce.

The third initiative in this program is MTAM’s Young Marine Professionals, which is an effort designed to keep these new professionals engaged within the industry. We host several social events around the Chesapeake Bay where young marine professionals can network, share best practices, and build friendships based on common interests and goals.

Maryland Grant Background: EARN Maryland, a program of the Maryland Department of Labor, was created in 2013 to form industry-led partnerships to advance the state’s workforce, grow the state’s economy, and increase sustainable employment for working families. It is a competitive workforce and economic development grant program that is industry-led and regional in focus. It is flexible and innovative, designed to ensure that Maryland employers have the talent they need to compete and grow while providing targeted education and skills training to Maryland workers. This includes career advancement strategies for incumbent workers and support for individuals entering the workforce.

What do you wish more boaters knew about the marine trades?

I wish boaters on the Chesapeake had a greater appreciation for the importance of the marine industry in Maryland and Virginia. The total annual economic impact of recreational boating in just these two states is over $7.1 billion, and supports more than 32,000 jobs.

I also want boaters to know that companies in the recreational boating industry are hiring! The current workforce is aging and just about everyone is looking for younger talent to hire and train. While it is certainly helpful to have some marine tech skills with knowledge of engine mechanics, composite, electronics or systems, many companies are willing to take on an individual who simply has the right work ethic with a willingness to learn.

What do you wish industry professionals knew about MTAM’s workforce development program?

Whether companies are looking to hire new employees or provide more training, MTAM has the resources to help them! Continuing education for current employees provides a great opportunity to advance their skill levels. It not only ensures that our workforce is competent and competitive with neighboring states, but it also fosters the career advancement needed for current employees to move up and creates entry level positions for new workers to fill.

What are you excited about in 2024?

I have really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful, genuine people involved in the marine trades. This is truly a community that cares about the well-being of recreational boating on the Chesapeake Bay. I am excited to continue building relationships within the industry and strengthen the pipeline for new marine professionals entering the industry.

What’s up for the spring?

We’re busy! MTAM will exhibit at regional high school and college career fairs to promote the marine trades as a career option. MTAM will also be at the Bay Bridge Boat Show and Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show to promote our workforce development program. We have partnerships in place with regional marine tech programs in the public schools and community colleges and hope to invite them and other young adults interested in a maritime career to join us at the shows for a career day to meet our industry partners and engage in meaningful discussions about future careers in the marine industry.

How can readers learn more about the program?

MTAM’s website has plenty of information about potential careers in the marine industry, success stories of interns who went through our program, and an online application to apply for an internship opportunity. There is also a job board with listings from our partners who are looking for more skilled candidates. Visit the site at

Does this job leave you time to go boating? Any future boating plans?

Thankfully, my position does allow for some flexibility to take time off to go boating. In addition to local boating activities on the Chesapeake Bay that will include both powerboating and sailboat racing, I plan to do the Newport-Bermuda Race in June. Sailing offshore is one of my biggest passions, whether cruising or racing. I can’t wait to get out there again. 

For more on MTAM, check out our interview with MTAM executive director John Stefancik.