Participant sanding during boat repair class.
Participants in the maritime training course.
SIMPSON BAY–Ten local youngsters recently started a comprehensive maritime course which will allow them to obtain multiple local and international certifications. The three-month course has been made possible through the collaboration of K1 Britannia Foundation and Kidz at Sea Foundation with Holland America Line as the course sponsor.
Holland America Line reached out to K1 Britannia Foundation in March, enquiring how it could assist the island in its long-term recovery after Hurricane Irma. One of the many concerns that were discussed was the lack of employment opportunities post-Irma for young people on island.
“There are so many ways that we can build back stronger, not only in terms of buildings and infrastructure but in terms of society. K1’s second chance programme before Irma had a broad focus; we’ve had to narrow it down after Irma to focus on the current needs facing our target group of young people, enabling them to get the proper training and opportunities based on the job market on the island,” said K1 Project Manager Alan Schet.
K1’s pre-existing second chance programme was built on the principle of giving youth opportunities, training and mentoring needed to become successful members of society. As a maritime foundation, getting the youth into the maritime industry, potentially a big job market on the island as well as abroad, has always been a priority.
This passion is shared by Kidz at Sea Foundation, which focusses on exposing local youth to the opportunities in the maritime industry of St. Maarten by offering them unique training opportunities. After Hurricane Irma, Kidz at Sea and K1 started discussions on how to provide training so that participants would become immediately employable in the maritime industry, especially with the current demand for boat repair.
Out of these discussions the idea was formed to create a training programme that will offer them certification through the level of Coastal Captain and significant hands-on maintenance experience. St. Maarten Marine Trades Association President Robbie Ferron reiterated the need for participation in the industry.
“The board is aware of the shortage of trained personnel in this labour area, especially after Hurricane Irma, and believes that this initiative is strategic for the St. Maarten Economy,” said Ferron.
The idea of the programme was then brought to Holland America Line, which quickly jumped on board. It wanted to be part of providing immediate employment and supporting St. Maarten’s recovery efforts from not just an economic perspective but also a societal perspective.
“Holland America Line is honoured to partner with K1 Britannia on its disaster relief efforts. Long-term recovery though job creation and a focus on youth is the reason we chose this project. This programme is changing lives for these young people” stated Holland America Line Corporate Giving Manager Pamela Baade.
The goal of the course is to provide not only training for youth that will enable them to find a job in the short term, but skills and certification that will give them a career for life, opening them up to a world of possibilities, both in St. Maarten and the rest of the world.
Kidz at Sea has been instrumental in the course’s design, having years of experience in giving a variety of maritime courses on the island. “The course will prepare the candidates to slide right in and be able to fill positions in either the day charter, mega-yacht or cruise line positions that become available,” according to Kidz At Sea founder Lorraine Talmi.
Court of Guardianship Director Richelda Rodriguez-Emmanuel said, “Finding work can be quite a challenge for youngsters, especially those who face additional challenges because of their education level, background and/or family situation. Creating specific opportunities for them is important, because they then get a chance to prove themselves and will be able to contribute to our society.”
The results during the last several weeks have been very encouraging, with participants showing keen interest in the maritime field and excelling. By the end of the programme, participants will have obtained multiple local and international certifications starting with basic keelboat, basic cruising, bareboat cruising, vessel maintenance, STCW 2010, ending with a boat master licence.
“We are very excited to partner with Holland America Line and Kidz at Sea for this programme. We believe it’s very important for the future of getting youth into the maritime industry,” stated Priya Thirumur of K1 Britannia Foundation on Tuesday.
Through collaborative efforts of local charitable and other maritime organisations, and with partners and sponsors such as Holland America Line, life-changing opportunities are created for youth in terms of training and job opportunities, both in St Maarten and abroad.