Local News

New Training Vessel for Nav School from Thistle Wind Partners

a smiling Mark Shiner at the Nav School pier

The Maritime and Engineering Department at UHI Orkney, the Nav School, in Stromness has been gifted a new training vessel from TWP, Thistle Wind Partners.

Orkney’s Nav School, has been providing training and courses for over 50 years from its base in Stromness. Many readers will have been on one of those courses, perhaps at school or through their employer.

Edinburgh based Thistle Wind Partners focus on Scottish offshore wind developments and are currently developing 2GW of floating and fixed-foundation offshore wind capacity at ScotWind leasing sites: the Ayre Offshore Wind Farm (Orkney) and the Bowdun Offshore Wind Farm (Aberdeenshire).

Alison Wilson, Director of Development and Alumni Engagement, UHI explained that TWP has been supporting the University of the Highlands and Islands for over a year. Collaborative work between UHI and TWP has involved STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) courses and the provision of STEM coordinators. This network of provision and support is vital to meet the future demands of Scotland’s growing renewables and maritime sector.

The courses and training offered by Orkney’s Nav School are important if we are to address the skills shortage in the Offshore Wind sector.

‘We realised you have to get in their early,’ commented Ian Taylor, Project Director at TWP, ‘and STEM does this by increasing the base from the very beginning.’ STEM courses introduce students from primary and secondary schools to areas of study they might not necessarily have thought of choosing. TWP provides this support at every level – to PhD and beyond.

Ian Taylor, Project Director, Thistle Wind Partners (TWP) and Mark Shiner, Curriculum Leader for Maritime and Engineering at UHI Orkney

Mark Shiner is the manager for STEM courses in Orkney. He explained that the new 5 meter training vessel donated by TWP is designed for 6 young people and one instructor and it should last for at least 30 years. The old vessel which is well past its best urgently needed replacing. On hearing that the college would need to retire its current vessel, TWP offered to step in and provide funding for a new vessel, a Whaly 500R, which is being delivered from Shetland. Mark said the gift from TWP ‘is about maintaining the continuity of the 50 years training at the school.’

Mark continued:

“Our maritime school, on its own stone pier in Stromness, has taught young people to handle small boats and cope with weather and tides, for over 50 years. We have a long history of sending students to work throughout the maritime sector. This vessel will deliver skills and ensure safety as we teach real skills at sea. I am so grateful to Thistle Wind Partners for seeing the potential in our young seafarers and supporting them in this tangible way.”

Mark is keen to provide the courses and training which are needed both locally and by businesses. He commented’ ‘We really need to hear from the developers – what do you need ? ‘

Providing courses in Orkney for the fast growing off shore wind sector and for other seafaring businesses would be of benefit not just to UHI’s Nav School, but to the retention of our young people who would be able to gain the training and qualifications they needed here in the islands.

TWP’s Ian Taylor explained that there is a large skills gap in offshore wind across a wide variety of trades from environmental scientists through to fabrication workers. Now is a great opportunity to grow the skills base locally.

He said:

“It is a great privilege for us to play even a small role in supporting the maritime future in the region. We know that as the presence of offshore wind grows, here and globally, there will be challenges in recruiting people with the right mix of maritime skills.

“It is fantastic to see UHI Orkney leading the way in incorporating offshore wind into its maritime curriculum. If young people can acquire these transferable skills, they will have the flexibility to work across the fishing, transportation and offshore energy sectors.”

The new training vessel will be on show for a short time in the car park at the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus, The Old Academy, Stromness on 12th September.

The Nav school and its pier from across the harbour in Stromness

Fiona Grahame

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