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MMI Graduate Ryan Ramsay Is Teaching the Next Generation of Marine Technicians

Mar 17, 2022 ·

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Marine Mechanics Institute (MMI) graduate Ryan Ramsay was surrounded by lakes growing up in the small town of Kendallville, Indiana. Being close to the water in a community where people grew up boating on the weekends helped spark his interest in boats.

Ryan graduated from MMI in 2005 and has been working in the marine industry ever since.1 He’s currently an instructor at the Impact Institute in Kendallville, helping teach students at the high school level the ins and outs of diagnosing and repairing boats and other watercraft.

Keep reading to hear more about his background and how he was encouraged by those in his life to expand his education!

Working on Boats in High School

Ryan grew up wrenching, but not on boats at first. “I started on lawn equipment before I could drive,” he says. “My dad also owned a car detail shop, so I was in there as a kid detailing cars and helping out with different mechanic things. This is where I really developed a strong work ethic — thanks to my mom and dad!”

Once he entered high school at the Impact Institute, Ryan took tours through several vocational programs offered to students. One, called Marine Mechanics at the time, allowed students to work on and repair boats and other watercraft. It was one of the few marine programs at the high school level in the United States.

Ryan signed up for the program during his freshman year.

“I thought, ‘This looks interesting.’ It helped me keep my grades up because you had to have good grades to attend. We got to take boats out, and I learned about what kind of career it could be.”

During this time, Ryan remembers an MMI recruiter coming to his school and giving a presentation. He also recalls his instructor for the Marine Mechanics program, John McElroy, stressing the importance of furthering his education.

“I remember asking John, ‘What do I need to do to have your job, because you’ve got it made!’ ” Ryan laughs. “(John) said, ‘You need to go to the best marine school in the country, which is MMI. You need to tour and check it out, go to that school, get associated with a marina, and stay in touch with me.’ ”

Ryan applied to attend MMI during his senior year of high school. “I was so excited for an entire year since I signed up early. It was building up the suspense since I signed up during senior year, so I was just ready to go.”

When the time came, Ryan says, “I pretty much had my graduation party and was like, ‘I gotta go,’ and hit the ground running.”

Feeling at Home

After graduating from high school, Ryan made the move from Indiana to Orlando, Florida, and started the Marine Technician Specialist Training program at MMI in 2004. He remembers having the usual nerves on his first day that slowly went away as the hours passed.

“After the first part of the day, I was very comfortable because of the prior training I had (from the Marine Mechanics program). I felt unique in my position,” he says.

Ryan says the instructors he had throughout the program at MMI helped him expand his knowledge even further.

“I remember Mr. Farley — some of the ways he taught I try to mimic as an instructor now,” Ryan says. He also remembers really enjoying the Mercury Marine specialized training portion of the program, since it focused on the brand’s products.

Students currently enrolled in the Marine program at MMI still receive specialized training from leading brands in the industry, including Mercury Marine, which covers six weeks in the 51-week Marine Technician Specialist program.

“I did everything that I could possibly do at the facility at the time,” Ryan says. “They had the option to test for Yamaha’s five-star certifications that included service management, so I tried to do the extra things they provided.”

When he wasn’t in class, Ryan worked several jobs, including unloading trucks for UPS and delivering pizza for Papa John’s.

“I’d deliver pizzas to Disney Resorts, and then I delivered a pizza to pro golfer Lee Janzen. He asked me what I was doing in Florida, and I told him about MMI. He then requested for me to deliver his pizzas every week,” Ryan says with a laugh, also recalling that “skipping an entire winter (back home) was phenomenal.”

Pieces Falling Into Place

After graduating in 2005, Ryan moved back to Indiana. “I used Employment Services when looking for jobs, and they were really helpful. I told them what locations I wanted to check out and they made phone calls and sent my résumé out.”

Ryan says he went to five or six interviews, and each time he was offered the job on the spot.5 “Since it was my career choice, I wanted it to feel right. I was just waiting for that,” he says.

On a whim, a family member called Ryan from an in-boat water show hosted by Patona Bay Marina & Resort and Smoker Craft Boats where you could take the boats out on the water and drive them. Ryan headed out and took his résumé with him.

“I explained to someone there what I did and my background, and they said to go to the service department. The service manager, Tim Collins, looked over my résumé and asked if I could start Monday. The excitement in his voice and the welcoming environment just felt right!” Ryan says. “I wheeled my toolbox in that Monday and worked there for almost six years.”

Ryan describes his experience working at Patona Bay Marina & Resort with nothing but positivity. “They treated me like family. There’d also be families that came in on the weekends wanting their boats ready to go, and it was nice to build relationships with them, because they knew I was servicing their boat.”

(At MMI), you’re meeting people that have the same interests, and it’s very tailored to the hands-on environment.
Ryan Ramsay, Marine Mechanics Institute grad and instructor at Impact Institute in Kendallville, Indiana.

Ryan let his employers at the marina know he was interested in eventually teaching the same type of vocational program he’d taken during his high school days at the Impact Institute. Ryan had kept in touch with his instructor, John, and the two had developed a friendship.

Ryan’s employers were nothing but supportive of his future goals. After John retired and Ryan stepped in to fill his role at the Impact Institute, Patona Bay Marina & Resort donated a test tank and other equipment for the school. “We have a mutually beneficial relationship. Several students of mine have worked for them.”

Ryan teaches the same program that he took at the Impact Institute, although it features a new name. “We call it the Marine Service Technology program now,” he says. The name changed from the Marine Mechanics program as technology has advanced.

“We call ourselves technicians versus mechanics now because while we make repairs, we also have to diagnose things. We wanted to be more professional. I require uniforms. We basically want to be a mini-MMI and implement that kind of training at the high school level,” Ryan says.

The Importance of Education and Friendship

Ryan has been teaching at the Impact Institute for 11 years now, and one of his favorite parts about being an instructor is the fact that each day is unique.

“There’s not a lot of repetition. New things are happening every day in class. We might get a new piece of equipment or a donation one day, so it’s not just the same thing over and over again,” he says. “I also love the challenge of training students who might know nothing about boats. I can teach at their pace and don’t have to force-feed them.”

Ryan’s journey came full circle when he was able to step into the instructor role. He gives a lot of credit to his former instructor and friend, John, who had been the one to push him toward training at MMI.

“If it wasn’t for John, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Ryan emphasizes, adding, “He passed away last year, and his family set up a scholarship for students pursuing careers in the marine industry.”10

John’s wisdom and the visit from the MMI recruiter set Ryan on a path that would affect the rest of his life — an experience that he describes as life-changing.

“(At MMI), you’re meeting people that have the same interests, and it’s very tailored to the hands-on environment. It’s gotta be hands-on, that’s the way I learn — taking it apart and putting it back together,” he says.

“The whole environment from school to living on your own turns you into an adult really fast. It gets you on the path to your career a lot faster than a traditional college experience. I was already working for three years and buying my first house at the same time a lot of my (high school) classmates were still in college.”6

For those who share a similar interest and passion for the marine industry, Ryan emphasizes thinking outside the box.

“Don’t just think, ‘I’ll be wrenching and loosening nuts and bolts for 30 years’ — look at all the job opportunities and expand what you could do in the marine field. Look at the entire industry. Even take my job!” he says with a laugh.

Ryan also serves on the MMI advisory board, where he helps review some of the curriculum and helps with accreditation pieces.

“MMI also reviews the curriculum for our school. Our program meshes well with theirs, so they invited me to be on the board. I like being informed with what (MMI) is doing.”

Continuing to Grow

Ryan has been able to accomplish a lot during his time in the marine industry, with no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

“I’m competitive, and there’s a few other high school marine programs in the country. I want to be the number one program in the country. We compete in National SkillsUSA skills competitions, and I want to bring a title home to our small town,” he says. “We were third in the nation last year, so we’re right there!”

With his strong work ethic and desire to succeed, there’s no doubt that the Marine Service Technology program at Impact Institute is in good hands with Ryan leading the way. His story highlights the importance of education and the ability for it to help pave the way for an exciting career.

Train for a Future in the Marine Industry

If you’re passionate about boating and the marine industry like Ryan, enrolling in the Marine Technician Specialist Training program offered at MMI can help train you for an entry-level career in the field.2

The 51-week program includes training on five leading industry brands: Honda Marine, Mercury Marine, Suzuki Marine, Volvo Penta and Yamaha Marine. Marine Technician Specialist training is offered at the MMI campus in Orlando, Florida.

Request more information today to get in touch with an Admissions Representative who can help you get started!

With classes starting every 3-6 weeks, no need to wait to start your career.
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1) MMI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

5) UTI programs prepare graduates for careers in industries using the provided training, primarily as automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than as a technician, such as: parts associate, service writer, fabricator, paint and paint prep, and shop owner/operator. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

6) UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

10) Financial aid, scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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