World Ocean School (WOS) commits to working with industry partners to facilitate and coordinate secondary education and job training programs for 20 high school students through a Maritime Academy Pilot Program. The program is designed specifically for St.Croix, which has a range of unique and high caliber maritime career pathways and is home to numerous charter companies, dive shops, a national park, and a nature conservancy – all requiring a skilled labor force.
This training will be a combination of off-campus exploration of the industry, local resources and career pathways, and in-class theory. The curriculum includes remedial math, science, and language skills to build competencies to ensure students are career ready. Specific maritime topics will include boat terminology, the physics of sailing, power boats and motion, marlinspike seamanship, boating safety, marine weather, marine engines and systems, laws and regulations, and the maritime history of St. Croix and the Caribbean. This program will also leverage local St. Croix mariners, and maritime professionals who can speak to their knowledge and passion for the industry.
The off-campus programs, will include up to 60 hours of sailing and maintenance skill development aboard the schooner Roseway, as well as an introduction to charter boat companies and to yacht manufacturing with Gold Coast Yachts. Students will learn welding and industrial skills, their application in the maritime industry, as well as sail-making and specialty crafts. Finally, students will also be exposed to a major industry on St.Croix: Lime Tree Bay Terminals. WOS anticipates ten students will also take advantage of various out-of-school time volunteer opportunities with these partners.
Upon completion of the Maritime Academy Pilot program, students will earn two high school credits, and obtain Standards of Training and Certification of Watchkeeping (STCW) Coast Guard certifications. WOS expects 80% of students to be placed in industry jobs or further training within three months of program completion and will facilitate this placement for students upon completion of the program.
January 2019: WOS will coordinate logistics with the schools and the district, continue to develop the curriculum, identify educators, and recruit students.
February 2019: WOS will begin the training for 15 hours/week with the cohort of students.
March - June 2019: WOS will monitor and assess student retention and engagement and develop ongoing partnerships with others in marine sector.
July 2019: WOS will place students in summer internships or with job training programs, and track student job and training placement.
A 2016 report produced for the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Office of Coastal Management expressed that most economic activity in the USVI is in some way linked to the ocean. National statistics also show the contribution of the ocean to the economies of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is about three to eight times greater than in the United States as a whole. However, the hurricanes of 2017 intensified various issues facing the USVI, including the need for a skilled workforce in the marine sector.
The maritime industry stepped up to support the U.S. Virgin Islands in a season of crisis after unprecedented back-to-back category five hurricanes struck the islands. For example, shipping companies, sent extra ships and shipments to help support rebuilding. After Maria, St. Croix became a base, running supply boats between St. Thomas and St. John, which were completely reliant on vessels, as the airports were closed. There were also significant challenges. St. John continues to be completely dependent on a supply barge and when the barge broke down or needed repairs, access to critical supplies were limited. The storms exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, and resources across the maritime field were stretched.
In 2018, the Virgin Islands Workforce Development Board Chairman Rich Difede, and representative from the maritime sector expressed a tremendous lack of marine training programs in USVI. This has been a substantial barrier for Virgin Islands’ youth to access jobs as professional mariners and in areas including the charter industry, yacht manufacturing, and yacht repair.
Given this reality, it is imperative that recovery and sustainability efforts in the region strengthen the ability for communities to engage meaningfully in the marine and maritime industries and create pathways for students to build careers in the sector.