Sailing towards success with practical skipper training

“I attended a Marine Transport Association conference a few years ago where the participants were asked who was consulted in the most recent qualification review. Not a single hand went up,” says Milo Coldren, Founder of Skipper Training New Zealand.

The maritime industry has been asking for more options from the education sector for a long time, Milo says, as they work to address a critical shortage of crew and skippers. “The traditional teaching models aren’t serving all students. Maritime professionals are often very hands-on; months of self-directed online learning followed by a fixed classroom setting works for some, but not for all, particularly those who are overcoming learning challenges or who need a more practical approach to their training.

“When I connected with Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC) and shared these reflections, they really took them to heart. With their support, Skipper Training New Zealand has been able to create a more holistic maritime training programme that combines theory with practical assessments. We have also worked collaboratively to create an urgently needed Deck Watch Rating micro-credential for the maritime industry,” Milo says.

This qualification typically includes only a week of training in overseas markets, but previously required a 17-week course in New Zealand.

“Alongside Hanga-Aro Rau, we were able to develop the micro-credential and have it approved by NQZA in under a month, then deliver it the month after. I can’t express how big of an impression it’s made having their team working alongside us. They’ve really put their feet to the pavement.”

The positive effects of their ongoing partnership with Hanga-Aro-Rau have been far-reaching, Milo says, particularly in boosting learner confidence and creating better outcomes. “Some of these people have had really negative experiences throughout school, or have never been able to complete a course. We recently had a student who received his first qualification at age 51. He is a photographic learner who has all the skills to succeed but he struggled with traditional education due to ADHD, dyslexia and literacy challenges. He burst into tears when he passed his Skipper Restricted Limits (SRL).”

The establishment of the WDCs has reflected a paradigm shift, Milo says, and created hope in a fatigued industry where some had grown reluctant to believe that meaningful change was possible. “Right from the get-go, Hanga-Aro-Rau was fully supportive. They are helping to reshape the learning landscape so that education is being tailored to match the needs of industry, not the other way around. They are very clear and intentional about how they’re approaching our needs.

“It’s inspiring to work alongside people who are absolutely dedicated to moving forward and doing what’s right for industry. The WDC is really standing up for the maritime operators and seafarers, not just paying lip service. If we were to lose that representation, my colleagues and I worry that we’d revert to a system where the needs of industry aren’t acted on.”