CAYHILL, Sint Maarten — The National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) and the Kidz at Sea Foundation are pleased to announce a strategic alliance that will both expand the Maritime certification opportunities for the students of NIPA while helping Kidz at Sea with their core goal of encouraging local St. Maarten youth to enter the Maritime industry professionally.

As in some other industries, certain skills are very specific and cannot be fully offered in a traditional classroom setting where the necessary specific mastercraft instructors and facilities are lacking.  Maritime training requires not only a theoretical skillset but hands on practical skills coupled with varying levels of time at sea.   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 Organizations standard certifications for working in the sector.

NIPA recognized 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 a certification that is recognized by the local and global industry.

For this reason, NIPA Board and Management reached out to Kidz at Sea Foundation, who has been working with unemployed youth since the hurricane to provide them training in the sector in addition to their other programs.   Kidz at Sea have the expertise and are qualified to train and certify the students with the necessary skills that they need to be successful.

Picture with VSA Minister Lee, Ms. Lacorbiniere-Hodge on behalf of the Ministry of Education, NIPA Maritime Students, Kids at Sea Foundation Board, NIPA represenatatives and maritime partners

On Monday March 18th, the two organization celebrated their recent agreement for Kidz At Sea to execute the international STCW 2010 certification, consisting of safety, firefighting and first aid on board, followed by the course “Basic Keelboat with elements of Qualifed Crew’ for the current program participants.  NIPA and Kidz at Sea have also agreed to work together on advancing the offered Maritime curriculum for the future to develop the optimum levels of competency based qualifications, combining practical skills training with general education requirements.

Among invited guests were Minister Emil Lee of Labor who emphasized the importance of aligning Labor and Education, as well as outlining the vast opportunities in employment but also potential for micro businesses in the Marine Sector; and Brian Deher, IGY’s Caribbean Regional Manager who has always been a big supporter of both Kidz at Sea and the NIPA.  Everyone made note of the importance of this 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 enjoyed seeing the large yachts up close.  Many are excited about the vast range of possibilities ahead of them.

The SLA went into effect on March 1st until the completion of this school year.  It is intended 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 current maritime courses are combined with internships where 12 trainees are currently at work in several maritime companies.