Enrollment is open for the 2020 VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship course, which is scheduled for July 3 to Aug. 5. Those who are 18 to 30-years old, who are interested in this free educational gateway into the territory’s marine tourism sector, are graduates (or will be this year) of a U.S. Virgin Islands’ public high school, and are U.S. Virgin Islands’ residents, have until May 18 to apply at www.vipca.org/youth-training
One of the students who completed this course last year is St. Thomas’ 21-year-old Shamar Lewis. Lewis had worked around boats for the last five years. After that, he knew he wanted a job onboard. He earned this, gaining skills, certifications, and a position aboard a day sail catamaran in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ marine industry upon graduating from the Marine Apprenticeship.
This intensive five-week course operated by the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA), offers training in powerboating, sailing, swimming, SCUBA diving, and marina and dock management, followed by a five-day qualification in standards of training, certification and watchkeeping (STCW), including firefighting, personal survival, first aid and CPR. What’s more, graduates are entry-level job-ready to work and earn.
The VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship operates through the Marine Rebuild Fund (MRF), which was established by VIPCA at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, following the hurricanes of 2017. CFVI provides fiscal sponsorship, including facilitating a 2020 donation of $25,000 for training ($2,500/student) from Island Foundation, of Marion, Mass.
Several private companies and public entities such as the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) provide course instruction.
Also new is the Marine Apprenticeship’s partnership with Cruz Bay Watersports on St. John, which will offer an intensive seven-day captain and crew training block.
“There is a shortage of talent in the commercial marine and hospitality sectors in the U.S. Virgin Islands and there are many well-paying jobs available in our organization and others. We want to assist in filling this void with Virgin Islanders,” said Chris Batchelor, Cruz Bay Watersports’ chief operating officer and partner.
Another training partner newcomer to the 2020 Marine Apprenticeship is MultiTech Marine, a leading multihull specialist in the U.S. and factory-authorized service center for most of the largest catamaran manufacturers. With locations near Annapolis, Md. and in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it expanded to the U.S. Virgin Islands last year.
YOA Yacht Charters, based in Frenchtown, St. Thomas, sells, manages, and charters sailboats and is another key company instructor for the 2020 MAP.
Returning to work with the Marine Apprenticeship is Stormy Pirates Boat Charters, a company with a fleet of over half a dozen powerboats that offers day charters, private charters, and cruise ship excursions across the U.S. and BVI.
Other training partners for the VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship program are St. Thomas Swimming Association, Charter Caribe, Jamann Sailing Adventures, St. Thomas Yacht Club, Red Hook Diver Center, the USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run, Yacht Haven Grande Marina and The Captain’s School.
All students motivated to complete the VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship will be allowed to ‘get their miles’ required to eventually get their captain’s license because they will be offered employment working on day charter boats immediately after training.
About VIPCA VIPCA is the territory’s 501(c)(6) nonprofit marine association, whose purpose is to promote, protect and further the capabilities of charter yachts and the marine businesses that sustain them.