Workboat apprenticeship scheme combats crewing challenges

'Multicat' type workboat crews require increasingly specialist skills (Peter Barker)

The National Workboat Association (NWA) has finalised its Workboat Crewmember Apprenticeship standard as the industry faces growing skills and crewing challenges in the thriving workboat sector.

Elsewhere in this column Tug Training & Consultancy’s programme to train tug masters in specialist skills required for the safe operation of modern shiphandling tugs is mentioned. The person in the driving seat is just part of a team of course and this scheme is aimed at addressing industry concerns about falling numbers of young people entering the industry at ground level, exasperated by experienced seafarers leaving the industry, often by retirement.

As well as tugs and ‘multicat’-type vessels the definition of workboat in this context includes: offshore wind personnel transfer vessels, survey craft and pilot vessels, all sectors experiencing growth involving increasingly sophisticated and technically demanding vessels but still requiring seamanship skills that have been around for generations. The new apprenticeship standard has now been finalised, paving the way for the scheme to be rolled out by training providers across England and Wales.

The Workboat Crewmember Standard and assessment has been published and the UK Minister for Education has confirmed an Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) recommended funding band of £20,000 per apprentice (aged 24 and younger), described as “the most significant funding that has ever been available for training workboat crewmembers” by the NWA. Companies in England and Wales already paying the Apprenticeship Levy can claim the funding, smaller companies not paying the levy are entitled to 90% of the amount.

The 18 to 24-month apprenticeship includes all STCW Basic Safety Courses, Navigational Watch rating and other qualifications necessary for working as a competent deckhand. The scheme combines shore-based instruction with extensive time on-board ensuring successful apprentices are well-placed to meet modern requirements.

Training providers including 54 North Maritime and Red Ensign are drawing up plans to run courses for the scheme and Mark Ranson, NWA secretary said: “Following a lot of work by the Trailblazer Working Group, the NWA Training group and our contacts at the IfA, we’re very pleased that the Apprenticeship is now finalised and – crucially – has secured a good level of funding support.” Adding: “This Apprenticeship offers a standardised, high-quality programme, endorsed by the NWA, to drive training initiatives for the next generation of workboat crews.”

By Peter Barker

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