NIPA Director Sergio Blomont signs the SLA with Kidz at Sea representative Lorraine Talmi.
NIPA Maritime students, Kidz at Sea representatives, NIPA board and partners on Monday.
COLE BAY–National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) and Kidz at Sea Foundation have signed a service level agreement (SLA) to expand the maritime certification opportunities for NIPA students while helping Kidz at Sea with its core goal of encouraging local St. Maarten youth to enter the maritime industry professionally.
The SLA went into effect on March 1 and will remain in place until the end of this school year. It is the intention that a longer-term agreement will be forged with changes that strengthen the current curriculum, in the best interest of the students and the sector. The courses are combined with internships whereby 12 trainees are currently working as interns at several maritime companies.
NIPA Educational Consultant Jose Sommers said maritime training requires not only a theoretical skillset, but hands-on practical skills coupled with varying levels of time at sea. She said certain skills are very specific and cannot be fully offered in a traditional classroom setting where the necessary specific master craft instructors and facilities are lacking.
“This has been a challenge for NIPA to date, not having water craft or instructors with the experience and certification to provide the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO’s) standard certifications for working in the sector,” she said.
NIPA recognised that in this sector in particular the requirements for professional certification are rigorous and must meet IMO standards. So, in addition to the general academic competencies, NIPA board and management wanted students to be prepared for the world of work with certification recognised by the local and global industry.
For this reason, NIPA’s board and management reached out to Kidz at Sea Foundation, which has been working with unemployed youth since the hurricanes in 2017 to provide them training in the sector in addition to its other programmes.
“Kidz at Sea has the expertise and is qualified to train and certify the students with the necessary skills that they need to be successful,” Sommers said.
On Monday, March 18, the two organisations celebrated their recent agreement for Kidz at Sea to execute the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW) 2010 certification, consisting of safety, firefighting and first aid on board, followed by the course “Basic keelboat with elements of qualified crew” for the current programme participants.
About 40 persons attended, including NIPA board, management, staff and 12 maritime students, as well as representatives of the maritime industry
NIPA and Kidz at Sea have also agreed to work together on advancing the offered maritime curriculum for the future to develop optimum levels of competency-based qualifications, combining practical skills training with general education requirements, Sommers said.
During the ceremony Labour Minister Emil Lee emphasised the importance of aligning labour and education, as well as outlining the vast opportunities in employment, but also the potential for micro-businesses in the marine sector.
Also present at the event were Department Education head Sidonia Corbiera-Hodge on behalf of Education Minister Wycliffe Smith; Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) St. Maarten official Sidney de Weever; NIPA board chairperson Peggy-Ann Dros-Richardson; Kidz at Sea Foundation President Lorraine Talmi; and Island Global Yachting (IGY) Caribbean Regional Manager Brian Deher, who has always been a big supporter of Kidz at Sea and NIPA.
Everyone noted the importance of the strategic alliance between the industry and education.
Several of the current students shared their learning experiences, from the depth of vessel maintenance to coordination of dockage experience during their internships, and said they enjoyed seeing the large yachts up close. Many are excited about the vast range of possibilities ahead of them.