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UKSA – A real alternative to university and college

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Are you thinking about alternative options to university and college? UKSA understand they might not be the right path for everyone and that fees and potential debt can be a scary thought.

Have you ever considered a career in the yachting and watersports industries? UKSA offer training that can give you a well-paid, long-term career that promises travel, an enviable lifestyle and little to no debt. UKSA is a youth charity, so there’s plenty of funding and bursary options to make your dreams a reality.


We spoke to three students who have gained qualifications at UKSA and now work in the watersports and superyacht industries.

Perry – After his GCSEs, Perry left school knowing that the traditional academic route was not for him. Perry studied the Watersports Instructor Traineeship (WIT) with UKSA’s Further Education department and, now qualified, he teaches school-aged children watersports.

Sarah – Despite most of her friends going off to university, Sarah knew it wasn’t an option for her. She successfully applied for the UKSA’s Watersports Instructor Traineeship (WIT) in partnership with Neilson, a leading active holiday provider, and on completion of the heavily subsidised course, Sarah joined the Neilson team at one of their resorts in Greece.

Jean-Damien – University was the original route chosen by Jean-Damien, however, he soon realised it wasn’t the right path for him. With his sights set on a long-term career in the superyacht industry, he signed up for UKSA’s Professional Yacht Cadetship – a unique sandwich course that offers both periods of training and time spent working in the industry, enabling cadets to earn while they learn.

Why did you choose UKSA over university?

Perry - Before I came here, I was in school studying. Well, I wasn’t really studying…if I’m brutally honest I was being really naughty. I didn’t like being at school and ended up being moved about a lot. I found out about the UKSA Watersports Instructor Traineeship (WIT) and went for an interview. I had never sailed or been on the water really and I thought coming to UKSA would be cool and an adventure.

Sarah - I had left college at 18 and knowing that university was definitely not something that I wanted to do, but not really knowing what I wanted to do, I went to work full time as a lifeguard and swimming teacher at my local leisure centre. After about seven months of being at home doing a monotonous job while all my friends were off doing new things at university, I decided I would rather work abroad somewhere warm, ideally by a beach, than in cold England. I came across the Neilson twitter page and was about to apply as a swimming teacher/lifeguard when I saw the UKSA advertisement for Neilson Watersports Instructor Traineeship and decided working on a beach seemed way cooler than by a pool!

Jean-Damien - Before I came to UKSA I had passed my degree in bio-chemistry and then wanted to spend a year in England learning English. I applied for the Professional Yacht Cadetship and chose that route because of the way you can alternate between study time and work experience, as university wasn’t for me.

How has going to UKSA impacted your life and career?

Perry - UKSA changes people. It changed me. It can change you and show you what you can do with your life. Before UKSA I didn’t know what I was going to do – I thought I was going to do nothing with my life. As soon as I found UKSA, I was like, “This is what I want to do with my life!”. I’m now determined to aim higher and higher and do better things! I plan to gain more qualifications at UKSA, then work abroad for a few years, see the world and then work my way up to being a CEO. I’ve got big aims now!

Sarah - I really enjoyed my time on the Watersports Instructor Training (WIT) course at UKSA and would happily go back there and do it all again! The staff were all friendly and super helpful! Sometimes I can be a difficult learner, getting stressed when I don't get things straight away, but all the UKSA staff were really patient with me, and helped me until I understood things. Everything was kept as fun as it can be, whilst still being informative, even theory! The way that I teach today is based on some of the ways that the instructors taught me at UKSA.

Jean-Damien - On completion of my first round of training at UKSA, I sailed around the world on a beautiful sailing yacht. The highlight of my career to date was passing my Master 3000gt [to become a captain of a superyacht], after more than 10 years of working hard and investing a lot of time studying (both on board and ashore). It was a big achievement, especially considering that 10 years ago I did not even speak English.

What surprised you most about UKSA?

Perry – How it changed my whole mind-set; I’m a lot happier and positive now. My mum is unbelievable happy and proud too and that’s made me really happy as before it never really happened. It’s changed me being at UKSA.

Sarah - One of the biggest memories about UKSA is how great the food is! Good, hot food at breakfast and dinner was exactly what I wanted before and after a session on the water! Also, I made friends at UKSA in 2015 that I still talk to now.

Jean-Damien - The more I learnt, the more I realised that I knew nothing! The most important thing I learnt during my time at UKSA was having respect for people, regardless of background and experience, as everybody will bring something to the group at some stage.

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