Shootin’ the Breeze… with Darrell Bate

Darrell Bate is the Director of Maritime Training and Development with the Marine Society & Sea Cadets.

AAS: The Marine Society assists seafarers in several ways. Can you give us an overview?
DB: Marine Society is Britain’s oldest maritime charity, dating back to 1756, originally founded to recruit young boys for the Royal Navy. Nowadays, we support the wider maritime sector, both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ sides with apprenticeship training, online courses, bursaries, careers advice and even a crew library and bookshop service.

AAS: What is your role?
DB: I came onboard as Marine Society’s director in 2019 having previously worked in further and higher education for 20 years. I started my career in the Merchant Navy as a deck officer, so it was wonderful to find a job that combined both elements.

AAS: In this fast-changing world, are there developments in the pipeline to continue supporting seafarers in new or improved ways?
DB: We are always seeking new ways of supporting seafarers. Following Covid-19 it has become very evident that seafarers are key workers and face very difficult working conditions. Our learning programmes are specifically designed to help them progress their careers and we now have a well-developed mentoring programme to support those who want to leave the sea and come ashore.

AAS: MSSC was formed in 2004 after a merger between Marine Society and Sea Cadets Association. Both charities have long histories, being 265 and 100 respectively, so how have they worked together over the last 19 years?
DB: As I say, Marine Society was founded well before the Sea Cadets but their merger was a natural fit, bringing together young people with a passion for nautical adventure and the established services of Marine Society to help them develop this passion into a lifelong career. The fact that we have access to over 14,000 employable young people is a real asset and selling point to employers with whom we work.

AAS: With thousands of people on the Sea Cadets waiting list, volunteers are always welcomed. What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering?
DB: Please sign up! We can only meet demand for Sea Cadet places where we have the volunteers. We have a well-structured training programme in place for volunteers, previous experience not necessary, although by nature we do attract those coming from a naval or maritime background. It is very rewarding, and you get lots of boating opportunities including aboard our offshore fleet of power and sail vessels.

AAS: Apprenticeships are increasingly common in the marine industry. Are they right for everyone?
DB: Well, that depends. For employers willing to offer an opportunity for a young person or perhaps an adult retrainer to join the sector, they are a great route into structured training and career progression. Apprenticeships in the marine sector are typically 18 months or more, so are not suited to someone with experience who wants to gain rapid promotion. Employers need to cope with some government bureaucracy to access the funding, but that is where we can help and steer them through.

AAS: The official opening of the National Support Centre took place in April. What happens at the centre?
DB: It is really the administrative hub for the Sea Cadets, which is by far the larger element of the work of the charity. We are based near IMO in central London so well placed for shipping firms as well.

AAS: What can you tell us about the Coming Ashore podcast?
DB: This is a new venture where we are trying to reach an audience of seafarers and maritime professionals with the life stories and anecdotes of those in the sector. It is a way of communicating informally the journeys that others have made to inform listeners in their own life choices.

AAS: What do you like to do when you get some down time?
DB: I have my own boat, a 34’ trawler yacht which takes up a lot of spare time (and money). I also enjoy theatre and film, having been an actor myself in a previous life!

AAS: Tell us something else people might not know about you!
DB: I am a part-time Ofsted inspector – but a friendly one!

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