Sailing on an ocean-going yacht has been the sort of experience that people have dreamed of during the pandemic lockdowns. But for 30 young people a year from disadvantaged backgrounds, thanks to Lloyd’s Register Foundation funding, it’s become a reality. And for the participants in Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT)’s ‘STEM and the Sea’ programme, the experience of setting sail has been a potentially life-changing introduction to a whole range of maritime careers.
“Out on the water, under sail, the young people learn lessons that set them up for life and help them realise their own potential,” said Ali Renn, Grants Officer at the TSYT.
The Foundation has been supporting 30 young people a year for three years to take part in the programme, which provides enriching experiences for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. But STEM and the Sea’s longer-term impact is even wider, and aligned to the Foundation’s goal supporting education for a safer world.
By inspiring participants with an experience of life at sea, the programme is bolstering the maritime industry, bringing potential new recruits to an industry starved of skilled people.
In 2016 British Marine reported that 30% of the UK’s boat builders had critical skills gaps, and the 2013 UK NEST Review reported that the maritime sector has a disproportionate number of retirees and a distinct lack of engineers in the 35-45 age range. Consequently, the skills shortage is worsening as a huge amount of experience is being lost to the industry.
18-year-old Keaen Lambert, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, took part in a recent voyage: “This past week sailing Challenger 2 with Tall Ships Youth Trust has been a fantastic opportunity. It’s really shown me what I can do, and I’ve learnt so much about the navigation system, helming, checking for wind direction and making sure the sails are in the correct positions.
“It’s highly important projects like these are open to young people like me who otherwise wouldn’t been able to access sail training. Before taking part, I was looking to join the Army as a driver but now I definitely want to do something more on the marine side.”
His ship-mate, Ben Phillips from Shanklin, said: “STEM and the Sea is a good experience which gives young people like me the opportunity to try something new. I’m training to be a chef but following this experience I definitely want to volunteer with Tall Ships Youth Trust.”
As well as the residential voyage, STEM and the Sea builds on the existing collaboration between our Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) and the 1851 Trust, who are also part of the project. As part of the course, students receive a bespoke ‘STEM’ session, led by an 1851 educator.
Skipper, Sue Geary, said: “I’ve seen first-hand how important and powerful our STEM and the Sea project is at inspiring these young people into careers in the marine industry that they previously wouldn’t have even thought of or been able to access.
“Our voyages provide them with insights they simply could not achieve elsewhere. Through exciting and challenging sail-training onboard our world-famous Challenger yachts, coupled with the activities provided by the 1851 Trust, we aim to ignite young people’s interest in sailing and STEM to inspire the next generation of mariners and marine engineers.”