By KAREN WELLS
LEWISPORTE — Introduced as a two-year pilot project last year, the Marine Institute (MI) Lewisporte Regional Fisheries and Marine Centre has come through the first year with flying colours.
The goal is to offer MI programs and courses to service the central Newfoundland region. Located within the campus of DieTrac Technical Institute, the partnership has been a great benefit to all involved.
The Pilot spoke with MI regional liaison officer for Lewisporte Alicia Anderson, instructors and students last week who are currently involved with the marine diesel mechanics technical certificate course. This course features nine-months of classroom/lab training in Lewisporte, four weeks of safety training in St. John’s and a 60-day work term at sea. After that they will write the required Transport Canada exam.
The course got underway with the first term starting in April. Now in their second term, the students will continue their studies in Lewisporte until the middle of November. Applications are now being accepted for another round of this course which begins in January of 2013.
Ms. Anderson said typically the marine diesel mechanic program that begins in September at the Marine Institute campus in St. John’s has a wait list because employment for graduates is high. Each enrollment sees only 24 students taken into the program in St. John’s.
“It is a course people want because they recognize they are going to get employment after,” she said.
Travis Thornhill of Fortune said the wait list in St. John’s is why he decided to pursue his training at the Lewisporte centre. With a tradition of family members having gone to work in the marine field and his father being an engineer as well, he wanted to get started on his career. With a new family, he knew this would be a good direction to take for job prospects.
“While the St. John’s campus is closer for me, I couldn’t wait another year to get in,” he said.
Ms. Anderson said, “Now these guys are on their way and they don’t have to wait until September to begin their career training.”
Mr. Thornhill is pleased with the decision he made and the training he is undertaking as one of eight students in the class (the maximum is 12).
“It’s very hands-on and we can have a lot of communication and input with the teacher,” he said.
Student Jordan Legge of Twillingate also has a marine family history with his father and grandfather both being fishermen. Location-wise, Lewisporte was a great fit for his studies, being able to room and board in Lewisporte and go home on weekends, something that would be difficult for him to do in St. John’s.
Instructor Trevor White, originally from Twillingate now living in Botwood, thinks that the number of students from the central region travelling to St. John’s for programs such as this was key to seeing the centre developed and located in Lewisporte.
Ms. Anderson knows of a few students from the bridge watch technical certificate program — another multiple month course of the MI offered in Lewisporte — who wouldn’t have been able to travel to St. John’s for the first four months of training due to family commitments or other circumstances. Twelve students have recently completed their studies in Lewisporte for that course and are now in St. John’s for the two months of safety and general ships knowledge before heading off on their work terms.
There are also a number of two to four day courses the MI institute offers through Lewisporte. While the MI will send out instructors to communities where enough students have been identified to offer the course, many times there are only one or two people in a community seeking that training. In that case there may be enough people from communities throughout the central region to commute to Lewisporte to have the course offered for those few days, again, instead of having to travel to St. John’s for this.
The students enrolled in the marine diesel mechanics program are receiving the same training as their counterparts at the main campus in St. John’s.
Mr. White said the theory and materials he uses in teaching are the same as those being taught in St. John’s.
Mr. White did note there are some areas that could be tweaked for improvement, such as a diesel engineering shop. But he noted this program is in its early stages with the development of Lewisporte as a regional centre.
“What we have now is a really good basis that can be grown,” he said. “This (DieTrac) facility wasn’t built with the idea of housing a marine component.”
Ms. Anderson noted that when the students from Lewisporte go into St. John’s for their month of safety training they will have some exposure to larger marine diesel engines.
Heading into year two of the pilot project, Ms. Anderson said to date they have been very successful at the Lewisporte Centre. At the end of year two a MI steering committee will evaluate the program and determine the future of the centre in Lewisporte.
“Hopefully things will continue and we can look into more longer term plans,” said Ms. Anderson. “I think the students have been enjoying their time here and the instructors are doing an excellent job with the training. From my perspective that is what we are here for, so the training has to be excellent.”
She also noted that all graduates of the program have to come through the training to meet the same standards.
“We answer to Transport Canada for our programs, so the quality of our graduates here in Lewisporte has to match up with the quality of our graduates in St. John’s,” she said.
Ms. Anderson said the introduction of the centre in Lewisporte has received great support from the Town of Lewisporte and DieTrac.
“It’s been a great fit for us here in this building,” she said.
DieTrac campus administrator Mike Pearce feels having a MI presence at the facility has also been beneficial for them.
“It lends a tremendous amount of credibility to the college and it enables DieTrac to foster partnerships that will lead to long term success of post-secondary training in this area,” he said. “The Marine Institute and DieTrac are both centres of excellence and they both offer quality programs for perspective students, so the partnership is certainly beneficial to both parties.”
As for the future of the MI Lewisporte Regional Fisheries and Marine Centre being located at DieTrac, he would like to see that presence grow at DieTrac.
“In the sense of economic factors, social factors and educational factors, there’s nothing but positives having the Marine Institute in this community and on this campus,” said Ms. Pearce. “It opens up a lot of doors for people outside of the main campus in St. John’s.”