Estimated duration
1 Year
Estimated total value
Latin America & Caribbean
Virgin Islands, U.S.
Gold Coast Yachts, Inc.; Ocwen Financial Corporation; VI Professional Charter Association; World Ocean School

Building the Marine Sector: Virgin Islands Maritime Academy


In 2019, World Ocean School (WOS) committed to launch a Maritime Academy Pilot Program, working with industry partners to provide a secondary education and job training program for 20 students in St. Croix. The maritime industry stepped up to support the U.S. Virgin Islands after back-to-back category five hurricanes struck the islands in 2017. In 2018, the Virgin Islands Workforce Development Board Chairman and representative from the maritime sector expressed a tremendous need for marine training programs. Upon completion of the Maritime Academy Pilot Program, which will include off-campus skill development, and in-class theory, students will earn two high school credits, and obtain Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping Coast Guard Certification. Furthermore, WOS will facilitate job and/or internship placement for students and expects 80% of students to be placed in industry jobs or further training within three months of program completion. This project will ultimately further WOS’s mission to fortify a crucial sector for the region.


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.

Progress Update

February 2021

In March 2020, World Ocean School made the unfortunate decision to pause the organization’s third semester-long Maritime Academy Program in partnership with Central High School. This was the result of a lack of sustainable funding from the School District of the Virgin Islands and was compounded by the initial spike of the COVID pandemic on US territories. While the in-classroom content was stalled, some support was still provided to help students complete resumes and cover letters.

World Ocean School hopes to restart this program in the coming year, though significant buy-in (both academically and financially) from the School District will be imperative. The program’s academic content will likely remain the same as previous years, though there is an anticipated shift in students’ exposure to and involvement with local marine industry partners. The Virgin Islands have suffered through the pandemic with the lack of tourism, and World Ocean School will need to reconvene with their community partners to clarify and establish operational shifts, internship possibilities, open positions, etc.

Partnership Opportunities

WOS is seeking financial resources to support the ongoing development and expansion of the program. The team is also interested in marine industry partners that can provide opportunities for trained students, or who can share marine industry best practices.

World Ocean School is offering in-kind support through its unique platform and team. WOS has a stellar track record of providing transformative experiential education programs for students aboard tall-ships in the K-12 space, and will share best practice information based on the team’s 13 years of work with the Virgin Islands Department of Education. WOS has maintained a flagship educational platform and would be willing to work with partners interested in learning about the maritime industry and education in the marine sector.

NOTE: This Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action is made, implemented, and tracked by the partners listed. CGI is a program dedicated forging new partnerships, providing technical support, and elevating compelling models with potential to scale. CGI does not directly fund or implement these projects.