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MARITIMETRAINING 20 | telegraph | | March 2012

Small yet perfectly formed

The Maritime College Velsen in the Netherlands off ers a unique blend of traditional education and specialist maritime training in an atmosphere that fully prepares young people for life on the waterways. Debbie Smith visited the students to fi nd out more…

All smiles from the students who know they will fi nish school with a full range of practical and academic qualifi cations Pictures: Debbie Smith L

The students at the Maritime College Velsen have something that

will make young people across Europe jealous — skills which will have employers beating a path to their doors come graduation day. The college combines main-

stream education for 11 to 17 year- olds alongside specialist study in maritime qualifi cations. It is simi- lar to the London Nautical School, but on a smaller scale, and pupils are able to board at the school — opening up more opportuni-


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ties for water-based recreation and giving pupils experience of spending time away from home. The college principal describes his school as a small, secure, safe and fun environment for learn- ing which uses the students’ pas- sion for the water to build a full curriculum. With fewer than 100 students

in the entire school, pupils have more individual support than through mainstream education, which allows them the time to undertake state exams and study a separate maritime programme. Pupils can board at the school from Monday to Friday, and the fact that 90 of 95 students cur- rently choose to do so is evidence that the students love their school at least as much as their principal. ‘This is a great place to learn

and to live,’ says student Tim Durge. ‘Even the students who start off just attending during the day soon apply to live here. ‘We get to spend lots of time

on the water and learn about life at sea as well as studying mari- time subjects,’ he adds. ‘Living and working together in the same small area is also great training for life onboard ships.’ ‘We are giving ourselves the best opportunities for the future,’ agrees fellow student Dennis van den Windt. ‘If you are not an aca- demic student or you have a low education you won’t be able to get a job in this sector.’

The college opened in 1996

when The School for the Rhine and Inland and Coastal Ship- ping moved from Amsterdam to Ijmuiden. It is a state second- ary school which specialises in preparing youngsters for careers in the Dutch inland waterways industry as well as other maritime and water-based vocations. Students study for the Dutch

national qualifi cation (VMBO) and undertake vocational courses including VCA (health, safety and environment), maritime technol- ogy and fi rst aid. The statistics prove the quality of the students and the teaching at Velsen — with exam pass rates at 100% for the second year running and intakes growing year on year.

The college itself is modern,

bright and spacious, and the sleeping quarters provide a good mix of relaxation and personal study space. Students can make full use of the waterways that run past the college door and they

Students get to go out on the water and put their training to practical use

even have their own inland water- ways vessel on which to practice their newly-acquired skills. Many of the students have come to the college because their families already work on the inland waterways, but the appeal is growing. ‘I don’t have family in inland

waterways, but I enjoy the water and wanted to come to this col- lege,’ says Robin Wevers, one of the students in his fi nal year at the college.

‘I’m here for the money!’ admits Armando Abdoelsaboer, proving that the availability of jobs at the end of the course is a big factor for young people today. Even those who have spent

their lives on the waterways know there is still a lot to learn and achieve at the college. ‘I grew up on the waterways but

the work is very different today,’ says Anthon Groenestein. ‘There is a lot more theory to learn which is much more diffi cult.’ ‘The water is my whole life,’

adds Sorin van Welbergen. ‘I’ve never wanted to do anything else.’ Once students have com- pleted their studies at Velsen they are qualifi ed to apply for jobs on the inland waterways, but many choose to progress to offi cer training and further expand their employment opportunities. ‘My dad and my uncle both

went to this school,’ explains Den- nis. ‘I grew up on my grandfather’s boat, so I have sailed since I was a child. My ambitions are differ- ent to theirs though — I want to become an engineer, either on ships or aeroplanes.’ ‘I also grew up on the water,

sailing my parents’ yacht, and I really love it’ adds Tim. ‘But as I also want to see the world. This college gives you a great start — teaching practical things so you are able to go on and study further. ‘We are already connected to

the maritime industry and I can take this knowledge with me next year when I will be applying to become an offi cer. I will eventu- ally have inland waterways and sea-going knowledge.

‘I hope to become an offi cer

on a cruise ship,’ Tim continues. ‘I like working with my hands but I also like socialising with people and doing administration, and I can do all of these things on a cruise ship.

‘Holland America would be my

fi rst choice as they have a lot of Dutch-speaking offi cers,’ he adds. ‘They have some really nice ships and I have heard they are a good employer.’

Cruise ships also appeal to fel-

low student Robin: ‘I am going to be a captain on a cruise ship,’ he confi rms. ‘That’s where the money is and the ladies will love my uniform!’ For all their joking the students

are incredibly serious about their career choices and are very quick to warn other young people that they may not have what it takes to succeed in a maritime career. ‘It is tough job and we are tough

people’ explains Dennis. ‘If you took a regular young person, who hadn’t had the type of training we have had, and sent them to work on a ship for a year they would probably have a breakdown or something.’ ‘Even on inland vessels you

work two months away before you go home and other young people want to be able to go home every night,’ agrees Tim. ‘We are already used to being away from home as we only go back at the weekends. ‘If you want a career on the

water then go for it, if you are not sure about it or you don’t know what you want to do, then this is not for you. You have to dream about it to have the drive to achieve it — it has to be your pas- sion or you will fail.’

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