Whitby and District Fishing Industry Training School (WDFITS) held its 15th Annual General Meeting and Apprentice of the Year Award ceremony earlier this month, reports David Linkie.

Guests attending the awards presentation at Whitby Fishing School acknowledged the important role undertaken by the company, both in Whitby and across the UK.

A community-based initiative, established in 2002 with the help of a DEFRA grant, WDFITS is a non-profit company, with all monies earned being used as working capital and reinvested into the school.

Giving his fourth Chairman’s Report – having taken over from Arnold Locker in 2014 – David McCandless began by thanking the guests for attending, including those who had travelled considerable distances, and reiterated how important their participation and support are to the continuing success of the training school.

David McCandless said: “We would also like to welcome the accommodation providers, who play such an important and crucial role in supporting the school, and to again mention the skippers along the coast, both east and west, who continue to support the training and development of our young people, and with whom we cannot do without.

“Further thanks must also be given to our sponsors, Sunderland Marine, Whitby Mission & Seafarers Centre, Trinity House, F D Normandale and Old Pulteney, as, without their support, the longevity of the school would have been compromised.”

David McCandless also thanked Whitby RNLI station for their continual excellent support to the school, and RNLI fishing safety co-ordinator Frankie Horne for his invaluable input in training the apprentices in their mandatory safety courses. Thanks were also given to Parkol Marine Engineering, in recognition for regularly giving trainees the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the fabrication and machinery fit-out of new fishing vessels.

Reviewing the past year at the Whitby Training School, David McCandless said, “2017 has been an extremely challenging operational year for the school, which has had to cope with changes in national policy surrounding the administration of apprenticeships and the delivery of vocational education to young adults. These changes have impacted significantly on pupil numbers passing through the school and essential core funding.

“Alternative Completion Conditions were removed across all apprenticeships. This is a fundamental change, which I first highlighted 12 months ago, that conflicts with the self-employed nature of the fishing industry and has marked the end of the fishing apprenticeship scheme as we know it.

“The same fishing industry training will now be delivered through the title of ‘diploma’, although opportunities will continue to be explored with fishing companies who can support the more formal employment of their trainees. Despite the significant implications of the loss of the alternative completion conditions, the school remains the only maritime training establishment in the UK currently offering the diploma in fishing training opportunities.

“Rest assured, Anne and her team, and the directors continue to work tirelessly at every turn to meet the significant challenges that the school is currently facing.

“On the ‘flip side’, the developing work boat apprenticeship scheme continues to grow, supported by a buoyant sector.

“During September, the school welcomed its first female workboat apprentice, Georgina Innes-Myers; an extremely positive development, not just for the school but the workboat sector as a whole.

“Despite the significant challenges faced in 2017, the school’s core staff, Andy Hodgson, Paul Braithwaite, Nathan Elcoate and Christine Emeney, led by our chief executive, Anne Hornigold, have remained absolutely committed to the cause and worked their collective ‘fingers to the bone’ throughout the year to keep the school going and progressing.

“The school’s enduring success is built on strong foundations, a dedicated and hard-working staff team, an effective board of directors, and an extremely supportive external community. Those foundations provide confidence in navigating the stormy waters ahead.”

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