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Yamaha sponsoring outboard motor maintenance class at KPC

Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus near Soldotna.
Riley Board
Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus near Soldotna.

An engine manufacturer and the Alaska higher education system are partnering to create more technicians capable of fixing outboard motors, the external engines on small and medium size boats.

Ilkan Cokgor will be the instructor of a course sponsored by the Japanese motor manufacturer Yamaha and offered at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna. He’s an electrical engineer by training who currently works as an instructor with AVTEC, a vocational school based in Seward.

He said Yamaha conducted a survey of its dealerships nationally, and discovered it needed about 2,000 more technicians around the country, which inspired the course. Cokgor said Yamaha owns almost 50% of the market share for outboard engines in Alaska.

“Back in August of 2022, there was an announcement,” he said. “Yamaha U.S. Marine Business Unit and the Alaska Maritime Education Consortium, they signed a training agreement. A Yamaha Marine Training Program agreement.”

He said the goal was to establish training centers where students could become certified in outboard engine maintenance. Under the agreement, Yamaha provides the training curriculum, instructor training and discounted engines and parts for learning. The University of Alaska system, which includes Kenai Peninsula College, provides the facility.

Cokgor said the course is divided into five modules, including a required introduction. Then there are four sections focused on technical training.

“And these four are divided by engine class: portable, mid-range, inline and offshore,” Cokgor said.

Students don’t have to take every module; they’ll get a certification to go along with each engine type they study.

“For example, after completing the “portable” module, the student obtains the “portable” certification,” Cokgor said. “And the certificate is issued by Yamaha.”

Each module is 100 hours, and all five together take 14 weeks to complete. The course is open to everyone. Cokgor imagines it will appeal to a variety of individuals, like technicians seeking a job at a local shop, or owner-operators who want to be able to fix their own engines. And while the course is focused on Yamaha products, it also provides general knowledge applicable to outboard motors produced by different manufacturers.

“Yamaha certification is really well respected in the industry,” Cokgor said. “So if you have the certification, you can go to a boatyard or a dealership — it doesn’t have to be Yamaha, because quite a few engines are the same. It can be Mercury, it can be Suzuki — but you can go to an outboard dealership and apply for a job.”

He said another interested party could be Alaska State Troopers, who use outboard engines and may want internal technicians.

The course kicks off January 16, 2024 with the start of the Kenai Peninsula College regular semester.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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