A record number of apprentices attended the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights’ 2015 Annual Lectures on Wednesday 28 October at the University of Southampton.
More than 320 apprentices, shipwrights, students and industry leaders from the marine sector enjoyed inspiring addresses.
Representatives attended from a range of high profile marine employers, including Berthon Boat Company, Pendennis, RNLI, PrinceYachts, Sunseeker, as well as students from both universities and local colleges. The event brought together a diverse range of prestigious speakers from within Britain’s marine industry. Experts explored the opportunities available to the sector’s young people today, predicting what the future holds for the industry and offering key career advice.
Opening proceedings, Michael Derrick commented, “There is no better evidence of the importance of these lectures, than a full house here today.” He was joined by James Grazebrook OBE who officiated the Lectures, and Prime Warden Mr Deputy Doug Barrow who welcomed attendees.
The Prime Warden Doug Barrow said, “It is great to see so many young apprentices and their companies sat in the audience, as well as fellow shipwrights. It is a delight to work with the University of Southampton and British Marine for these important Lectures. At the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, it is our job to educate, support and encourage the shipwrights of the UK, ensuring skills are passed on to the next generation.
“The leisure marine sector brings in £2.9 billion to the UK economy each year, with over 34,000 employees across the country. It is a pleasure to welcome the companies sat in this room, who are all leaders in their respective fields, in an ever-expanding sector.”
The first presentation “An unusual Journey”, was from two passionate Berthon Boat Company apprentices – Jack Gunstone-Smith, a final year shipwright apprentice and Nathan Smith, a third year engineering apprentice. The pair took to the stage and shared their experiences at Berthon, discussing the benefits they gained from learning outside of a classroom environment and with the ‘earn as you learn’ approach. Jack and Nathan also spoke about their participation in an incredible voyage from New Zealand to Lymington on Grey Wolf, a 64 foot motor yacht designed for long distance cruising by the internationally respected designer, Steve Dashew.
Jack and Nathan spoke about the variety of skills they learnt during their time at Berthon, from carpentry and joinery to traditional restorations. Jack said, “It has been amazing to be involved in traditional projects that apprentices wouldn’t usually get to be a part of. We have learnt to combine traditional methods with modern techniques, and have been trained in a huge range of crafts so we can aim towards many different horizons in the future.”
The apprentices gave an inspiring talk about the many merits of shipwright apprenticeships and spoke about their aspirations for their future within the marine industry.
An interactive panel discussion followed, entitled ‘Power Play – Marine propulsion at work” – chaired by Matt Sheahan, Technical Editor at Yachting World. The panel was made up of industry experts, including Adrian Miles of Bruntons Propellers, Gerard Törneman of Volvo Penta, Keith Tyler of Rolls Royce and David Barrow from Windship. They discussed a number of subjects from advances in propulsion technology and hybrid systems, to how companies can increase efficiency and reduce emissions. The discussion stimulated a lively exchange of thought-provoking questions from the young attendees.
The panellists also spoke about their own experiences in the marine industry and Adrian summed up the apprenticeship scheme by saying, “You may feel like a small part in a big company but if you make the right decisions, you could really make a difference.”
Third to take to the stage was Henk Weikens, Joint MD of Pendennis Shipyard, with a talk entitled ‘How lucky can you be?’ Pendennis, the Falmouth-based superyacht builder and superyacht refit, restoration, and rebuild shipyard, has employed over 160 apprentices in its history. Henk talked about his amazing career journey, from building small fishing boats in Holland to emigrating to New Zealand and finally taking over Pendennis Shipyard in Falmouth.
Filling the young apprentices with confidence, Henk said, “Your 20s and 30s are the most exciting time of your life, when you are filled with enthusiasm and can really shape your career. If you don’t know how to do something, give it a go and then ask someone who does know! Confidence in your craft is one of the best ingredients for an apprentice.”
Henk spoke about the steep learning curve of setting up a boat building business at just 24 years old. He said that setting up an apprentice scheme is one of the most satisfying things he has ever done and he closed his session with, “You might make some mistakes along the way, but you are more likely to regret the things you don’t do. I am in the business of making things that people don’t need but really want, so I have always made sure to have fun with my work.”
The closing address was made by the Chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Charles Hunter-Pease OBE. He gave a summary of the afternoon, before giving the final words of advice to some of the industry’s most promising young professionals. He said, “It never ceases to amaze me that shipwrights can take a mound of materials and turn it into a brand new boat. Many apprentices work at the RNLI and we could not save lives without them. In some respects, we should all never stop being apprentices and continue to learn and work hard. If you love what you do, it will always show in your work.”