US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

Enrollment is open for the 2020 VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship course, set for July 3 to August 5. Those who are 18- to 30-years of age, are interested in this FREE educational gateway into the territory’s marine tourism sector, are graduates (or will be this year) of a U.S. Virgin Islands’ public high school, and U.S. Virgin Islands’ residents, have until May 18 to apply at

One of the students who completed this course last year is St. Thomas’ 21-year-old Shamar Lewis. Lewis had worked around boats for the last five years. After that, he knew he wanted a job onboard. He earned this, gaining skills, certifications, and a position aboard a day sail catamaran in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ marine industry upon graduating from the Marine Apprenticeship. This intensive five-week course operated by VIPCA, the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, offers training in powerboating, sailing, swimming, SCUBA diving, and marina and dock management, followed by a five-day qualification in Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) including firefighting, personal survival, first aid and CPR. What’s more, graduates are entry-level job-ready to work and earn.

The VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship operates through the Marine Rebuild Fund (MRF), which was established by VIPCA at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, following the hurricanes of 2017. CFVI provides fiscal sponsorship, including facilitating a 2020 donation of $25,000 for training ($2,500/student) from Island Foundation, the Marion, MA-based foundation, which works with organizations that promote progressive social change and combat discrimination. The VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship is 100% FREE to students.

Several private companies and public entities such as the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) provide course instruction. With the USCG’s Marine Safety Detachment on St. Thomas students will spend half-a-day learning aboard an official USCG vessel. During the training provided by DPNR’s Division of Environmental Enforcement students will patrol with the enforcement officers and learn about enforcement job possibilities.

“We are grateful for the partnership opportunity to expose our local youth to various aspects of the marine industry. There are many professions in the marine industry that can provide careers to our people, one of them being a conservation enforcement officer. If you love your home, love the water and want to see what careers are possible in the industry, be part of the marine apprenticeship program,” says Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Oriol, DPNR commissioner.

Also new is the Marine Apprenticeship’s partnership with Cruz Bay Watersports in St. John, which will offer an intensive 7-day day captain and crew training block.

“There is a shortage of talent in the commercial marine and hospitality sectors in the U.S. Virgin Islands and there are many well-paying jobs available in our organization and others. We want to assist in filling this void with Virgin Islanders,” says Chris Batchelor, Cruz Bay Watersports’ chief operating officer and partner. “To that end, we are fortunate to partner with the USVI’s premier resorts on St. John and St. Thomas. Our fleet consists of USCG inspected ferries, excursion boats and sailing catamarans. The students will be exposed to all aspects of seamanship, upkeep, and customer service. They will also experience destinations throughout the territory and interact with some of the most discerning guests visiting our shores.”

Another training partner newcomer to the 2020 Marine Apprenticeship is MultiTech Marine, a leading multihull specialist in the U.S. and factory-authorized service center for most of the largest catamaran manufacturers. The company, with locations near Annapolis, MD and in Fort Lauderdale, FL, expanded to the U.S. Virgin Islands last year.

“Technical skill and proficiency in diesel engines, outboards, electrical systems, plumbing, and more are just some of the areas we will be exploring. With the diversity of work available on yachts today, we are confident that MultiTech can help identify and expand the knowledge base of our youth,” says peter Pieschel, service manager at the American Yacht Harbor, St. Thomas location.

CYOA Yacht Charters, based in Frenchtown, St. Thomas, sells, manages, and charters sailboats and is another key company instructor for the 2020 MAP.

“We have a fleet of over thirty modern boats, each of which has complex systems. We will show students the boats, go over basic maintenance and the inspection process for charter turnaround. We will also demonstrate the operation of the onboard equipment such as engines, generators, air conditioning, watermakers, refrigeration, and electrical services,” says Jay Pennington, base manager.

Returning to work with the Marine Apprenticeship is Stormy Pirates Boat Charters, a company with a fleet of over half a dozen powerboats that offers day charters, private charters, and cruise ship excursions across the U.S. and BVI. Students will learn everything from showing guests how to fill out BVI Customs and Immigrations forms to operating the boats.

“One of the highlights is when we let the students have some time at the wheel. One student will be driving the boat while another tries to pick up a mooring ball. The student picking up the mooring ball must guide the one on the wheel with hand signals. This is always fun because the students must work together. After the mooring ball exercise, we then teach how to properly anchor and the signs to look for to assure the boat is secure. The employment opportunities in the charter and yachting industry are endless for students that live here in the Virgin Islands,” says Kristie, who owns the company with husband Richard.

Other training partners for the VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship program are St. Thomas Swimming Association, Charter Caribe, Jamann Sailing Adventures, St. Thomas Yacht Club, Red Hook Diver Center, the USVI Stars & Stripes Poker Run, Yacht Haven Grande Marina and The Captain’s School.

This Apprenticeship is just the beginning for any young Virgin Islander who has ever dreamed of becoming a captain or marine technician. VIPCA, with funding through the Marine Rebuild Fund, will continue to mentor Apprenticeship graduates and even continue to sponsor their further mariner qualifications when they are ready for them,” says Oriel Blake, VIPCA Executive Director.

Finally, to those students who are still pondering whether to apply, Lewis offers this advice: “It’s a great opportunity to learn a lot of skills that you can always use in helping you find a job in the marine industry now or in the future.”

All students motivated to complete the VIPCA Marine Apprenticeship will be allowed to ‘get their miles’ required to eventually get their captain’s license as they will be offered employment working on day charter boats immediately after training.

For more information and to apply, visit:, Email: or call (340) 642-0656



VIPCA is the territory’s 501(c)(6) nonprofit marine association, whose purpose is to promote, protect and further the capabilities of charter yachts and the marine businesses that sustain them.

About Marine Rebuild Fund

The Marine Rebuild Fund (MRF) was founded to support the recovery marine tourism in the wake of the hurricanes in 2017, and to track more of the Virgin Islands’ youth into a variety of jobs within the marine industry. The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, provides fiscal sponsorship to the MRF. You can donate to the Marine Rebuild Fund to sponsor one or more Marine Apprentice student by donating to CFVI at PayPal entering “Marine Rebuild Fund” n the space provided on the checkout page.