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'An apprenticeship has been my route to sea'

One apprentice tells his very personal story of how a new apprenticeship scheme has allowed him to continue a proud family tradition

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One apprentice tells his very personal story of how a new apprenticeship scheme has allowed him to continue a proud family tradition

My dad served in the Royal Navy for 12 years and afterwards, he bought a boat, making a career as a fisherman for a further 10 years. Now he trains fishermen in our hometown of Hull, so you can see that I’ve always been in and around seafaring. Life at sea always interested me. When I was 15 I was taught a basic level of fishing and I loved it, so it was only a matter of time before I followed in my dad’s footsteps.

I’m currently a deck officer’s cadet, having been appointed to a brand new apprenticeship scheme developed and run by North Atlantic Fishing Company, Cornelis Vrolijk Group and Hull Trinity House Academy. The training, combined with the classroom learning aspect, makes this course the first of its kind – there’s no other maritime education in England like this that focuses on fishing, rather than preparing to work on ferries or cruise ships, or other maritime careers.

Half of my time is spent at sea on the H-171 Cornelis Vrolijk Fzn, a 113-metre long pelagic freezer trawler, fishing out of Hull, and half at home – three weeks on, three weeks off – with two days at college when I’m on land.

I first sailed with the Cornelis Vrolijk Fzn in February 2017 and have shared responsibility for the safe navigation of the vessel and calculating her stability. We can catch up to 300 tonnes of fish a day, and with every haul the weight of the boat changes, so I need to make sure she’s always steady.

Six hours on, six hours off

When I’m on the fishing vessel I work a six-hour watch and then have six hours off. I’ll work in the factory, the fish room, on deck, on bridge duty, always observing the crew for safety. I have to understand the role of every person on the ship to do my job properly and I love that I have such a high level of responsibility so early on in my career.

With both theoretical and practical elements to the apprenticeship, I get to put into practice everything I learn in the classroom at sea and have a team of experts around to guide me. There’s never a dull day and I’m learning about chart work and tides, sustainability measures, navigational maths and science and meteorology and celestial navigation to make sure I can keep the vessel on the right course. Units in bridge watchkeeping and marine cargo operations make sure I understand the jobs of everyone on board too and help to keep the crew safe.

I really believe we need more schemes like this up and down the country – there are lots of maritime students in other seafaring countries, but in the UK maritime training and careers aren’t as easy to access and people aren’t encouraged into them. This particular scheme was a brilliant opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. John Welburn, a previous Chief Engineer on the fishing vessel, was a pioneer in getting it off the ground and helping me become the first student, as he, North Atlantic Fishing Company and Cornelis Vrolijk Group saw the value in having more British trained officers and engineers. I can’t thank him enough for kickstarting my career like this.

Career paths and new places

Without an apprenticeship like this, I would struggle to get the right qualifications to work with a company like North Atlantic, or be able to find a career that pays as well as the route I’m on now. When I’m not working, I continue exploring and love to travel as often as I can to places I’ve never been before. 

In the short term, I want to finish my apprenticeship, which I hope to do by the summertime, and then I’ll be looking to complete my Class 2 Second Mate qualification, finishing with my Class 1 Skipper qualifications. Those take a lot of sea time to get, so in that time I want to continue working on the deck and learn as much as I possibly can.

I’m already learning lots that can be applied to my future ambitions and I’m really happy to have hooked such a good opportunity.

Cameron Day is a deck officer’s cadet on an apprenticeship scheme run by North Atlantic Fishing Company, Cornelis Vrolijk Group and Hull Trinity House Academy

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