UKSA pioneering online MCA Yacht Training

Published 29/07/2020

In this week’s blog, we turn the tables, and our Director of Training and Operations, Chris Frisby, becomes the interviewee! We talk to him about the work he and his team have been doing behind the scenes to become one of the first MCA Training centres and the largest independent IAMI exam centre to resume COVID secure virtual MCA Yacht Training delivery.

Despite onsite operations being suspended, you and Gregor McGowan, MCA Training Manager have been busy behind the scenes securing permissions from the MCA to resume delivery.

Yes, we first got permission to deliver online Officer of the Watch and Master Orals Preparation training in May and Bill Tate and Ross Kennedy have been kept busy running those.

At the same time, several MCA centres were able to resume operations, as they were delivering training to Merchant Seafarers, who, quite rightly, have been classified as key workers during this global pandemic. This, however, did not include Superyacht crew. So through discussions with the MCA, and following extensive planning, delivering pilot programmes and auditing, we are very pleased to announce we are now accredited by the MCA to be able to resume the delivery and examination of Yacht Training modules.

As one of the first centres in the world to get this permission from the MCA, how will the courses be delivered?

Gregor and his team have been diligently rewriting lesson plans and notes for each course which have been audited by the MCA. Theory courses will now be delivered online via Zoom from two new dedicated virtual classrooms in the MCA Training Centre. The Snug and the Crow’s Nest have been converted, sound treatment is being applied to the walls and specialist lighting for video is being installed. We have invested in several powerful PCs to run the sessions as well as two document visualisers for each room and professional microphones and cameras, rather than standard web cams. We have also boosted the WiFi signal across the site.

Through delivery via Zoom, the students can still ask questions during the lessons, either in the private chat function, or in the group Q&A where students can interact with each other. The instructors can constantly monitor the students’ progress and alter the pace of delivery or revisit topics if required. Alongside Zoom, the Instructors will be utilising Microsoft Teams to share resources and enable students to ask them questions outside of class time when they are studying in the evenings. All the Zoom sessions will also be recorded and posted on Teams, so students can revisit the lessons if needed.

Exams will then be held as usual at the end of each course.

That sounds great, can students still come to UKSA for their training or do they have to do it remotely?

That depends on the course. For theory-based courses, like General Ship Knowledge (OOW Yachts), students can choose to study onsite, or elsewhere, they will just need a stable internet connection. Full attendance is required wherever students choose to undertake the training and all exams will be held onsite.

For those choosing to stay onsite, accommodation will be in single en-suite rooms, with a desk and appropriate study space to set up their laptop and course notes. Those onsite will be able to schedule socially distanced 1:1 face to face sessions with the instructor. As always, three meals a day are included, so students can focus on their studies, in a dedicated learning space.

We believe this creative blend of online and face to face delivery will really help our students accelerate their learning, whilst remaining COVID secure at all times.

The MCA are allowing candidates a maximum of six months to take their exams, so should further lock downs or travel restrictions be put in place, candidates can defer taking their examination or chose to take one at a centre they are able to get to.

What about courses with practical elements?

Currently, we are unable to offer training in any of our simulator suites. However, for courses such as the STCW Basic Safety Training, all theory elements will be delivered over Zoom. Practical elements are planned to be delivered with appropriate social distancing. For example, for Sea Survival element, five students will be allowed in our onsite pool at one time, but drills will be completed individually. At the fire ground, all students have their own personal equipment, which the team will disinfect between groups.

So when will you be running the first courses?

Our first courses start on Monday, 3rd August. With Gregor delivering Celestial Navigation (Master Yacht) and Ross delivering General Ship Knowledge (OOW Yachts). Zoom invites will be sent out on Sunday afternoon.

The following week will be running Navigation and Radar (OOW Yachts), and Stability (Master Yachts). Then the week commencing the 17th August, we will be running our first post lock down STCW Basic Safety Training course as well as Seamanship and Meteorology (Master Yachts).

Towards the end of August, we hope to be able to deliver more classroom-based tuition including Human Element, Leadership and Management.

Places on each course are limited to 10 with the first two STCW Basic Safety Training courses already fully booked, but there is still some limited capacity on the other courses.

For those who choose to complete the training onsite, what COVID secure procedures have been put in place?

UKSA have invested in spraying equipment, with all bedrooms being treated and sealed ahead of each new occupant.  Also, all common areas will be treated regularly.

At present, our MCA training courses will be the only residential students we have on our 4 acre site, we have limited the capacity in our dining room to 30, so students can still socialise with their peers outside of class and maintain social distance. Temperatures are taken daily for all those present onsite whilst an enhanced cleaning programme will be executed. Extensive social distancing measures have been put in place and hand sanitisers are available throughout the site.

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