Case studies

Ali Nolan

Watersports Student to Instructor

Did you know you can qualify as a watersports instructor as part of your secondary education

“I found out there’s more to BTEC 3 in Sport and Physical Activities than first meets the eye. It’s not only PE and outdoor sports in a school or college setting, but it can also be based on watersports and adventurous outdoor activities.

I moved to the Isle of Wight as a teenager and when I came to leave school at 16, I didn’t realise that I could qualify as a watersports instructor as part of my secondary education.  I didn’t want to stay in education for another year which was mandatory and had absolutely no clue what to do next; I just wanted to get out of school and enjoy life.

So when did you discover UKSA?

My life changed when a visit from UKSA to my college opened up the opportunity to do something active on the water to complete my secondary education. The instructors brought a paddle board and windsurfer and said this is the sort of stuff you can do at UKSA. The course ticked all the boxes of activities I like to do in my personal time and brought them into an educational purpose.  My first experience on the water was aged 14 on a week’s sailing course then I went on to enjoy kayaking, jet ski (PWC) and windsurfing in my spare time.

I came to UKSA with the sole expectation of learning to sail better and soon realised I could qualify as a watersports instructor and land a job quickly.  I have been with UKSA for 5 years, first as a BTEC student then working all year instructing in watersports and am now a Lead Instructor for school groups.

“If you are outgoing, willing to try new things and enjoy being on the water, this is a great way to get qualifications.”

How did you find life on campus?

UKSA is one of the few places where you can do this specific watersports BTEC. The campus is on the river estuary, 10 minutes from the beach looking out on the Solent with all the yachts. Staff are extremely competent; it’s not a talking place and presentations, it’s about practical learning which suited me.  I really enjoyed the watersports activities and other adventure outdoor team building and the skills development aspects of the course.  I gave the course my best shot and loved it.

What skills have you gained since studying at UKSA?

Thinking about what I have gained most… I was always a confident person and made friends with almost anyone, however, UKSA gave me a stepping stone, qualifications-wise, to get a job on the water.  It equipped me with all the mandatory qualifications. I was able to network and talk to people already working in yachting and the watersports industry who were visiting UKSA to do courses. This is how I found my next job.

What personality traits are useful to teach watersports?

If you are outgoing, willing to try new things and enjoy being on the water, this is a great way to get qualifications.  A tip from me is, if you are thinking of doing this course you have got to want to do it, you can’t do it half-heartedly.

Recently, my love of water and boats tempted me to go on a cruise which was a dream; all the staff seemed to be having fun entertaining with guests. After talking to people working on cruise ships attending courses on-site at UKSA, I decided this is what I wanted to do next.  I’m thinking of taking a break from teaching for a few years and considering a job on cruise ship at the end of the year.”

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