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Plotting a course for marine careers
09 October 2009
As British sailors celebrate growing success in ocean racing, an initiative has been launched to inspire Welsh youngsters about maritime careers.
Backed by £746,000 of funding from the NDA, Mon a Menai, Anglesey County Council, Gwynedd County Council, the Sports Council for Wales and the private sector, the Ysgol y Môr (School of the Sea) project aims to boost the North Wales marine industry by encouraging school-age children to consider potential careers that range from marine engineering and surveying to boat-building, sail-making and sailing instruction. The NDA contributed £300,000 to the funding total.
John Griffiths, the Welsh Assembly's Deputy Minister for Skills, unveiled the programme today (Thu 8 Oct) at Plas Menai, the Welsh National Watersports Centre near Bangor. Addressing a range of representatives from local schools and the marine sector, he stressed that the benefits would be long-term and that if the programme was successful, the Welsh Assembly Government would consider extending it across Wales.
Under the auspices of North Wales Watersports Ltd, the two-to-three year programme will provide the equipment, training and activities needed for young people to take part in a host of marine-related activities.
It is based on a similar approach in Brittany which successfully reversed declining marine industry fortunes. Today, Brittany is recognised as a European centre of excellence in the marine leisure industry which drives economic growth in the region.
The UK's long coastline has always generated an interest in the sea. Two of our women sailors Sam Davies and Dee Caffari enjoyed unprecedented success in this year's 30,000-mile Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race, while the British sailing team garnered six medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Stuart Gibson, co-ordinator for North Wales Watersports said: "There is huge potential for growth in our local marine industries here in North Wales. With our distinctive coastline, we are particularly well-placed to take advantage of our natural resources. We are excited about the possibilities of inspiring future generations to consider employment and business opportunities associated with the coastal environment."
Sara Johnston, the NDA's Programme Director covering Wylfa and Trawsfynydd, said: "The NDA is committed to supporting economic diversification in North Wales and we are pleased that our contribution will help lead the marine industries towards improved and sustainable growth – creating an even more vibrant and exciting place to live and work."
A regional study in 2002 highlighted the potential for growth in marine industries but also drew attention to inadequate local marine infrastructure and a lack of awareness of the employment possibilities. Although Bangor University is a recognised leader in oceanic sciences, local interest in its courses has historically been low.
If successful, Welsh Assembly Government officials have indicated that the initiative could be incorporated into the national schools curriculum across Wales.