Westport Deepsea Fishing School

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Working on a deepsea fishing vessel can earn a teenager tens of thousands of dollars a year and is becoming an attractive work option for many school-leavers.

On a busy street on the West Coast, South Island, town of Westport is situated a school dedicated to getting young people employed in the New Zealand fishing industry, and there’s no shortage of Rangatahi seeking places and eventually a career in the lucrative fishing industry.

The Westport Deepsea Fishing School has been operating since 1988, and since the year 2000 has been owned and run by Peter Maich, a former commercial fisherman with a passion for the industry and a desire to see young adults in meaningful work. With an almost 90 percent post-learning employment success rate, the school is vital in keeping the industry rejuvenated with youngsters keen to learn industry skills. Over the years, more than 3000 students completed the courses offered by the school.

somethingTe Ohu Kaimoana has played an important role in the school’s development for more than a decade providing full scholarships to Māori wanting a career in fishing.  The school educates anywhere between 20 and 40 people at a time in a residential environment where the students live and learn together, supporting each other through the 10 – 12 week course.

The course, which is supported by all of the major New Zealand deepwater fishing companies, puts students through the rigours of what they can expect while working on a deepwater fishing vessel, including how to fillet and pack fish, sharpen knives, tie knots, as well as techniques for survival in deep, cold waters should an accident occur. During the course, students spend time learning on the job while working on board deepwater fishing vessels.

somethingAs the course is fully residential, the learning environment attempts to mimic working conditions.  Students are encouraged to live day-to-day as if they were employed on a fishing vessel and they are taught to maintain orderly rooms and service areas in the former nursing-hostel-turned-students’ accommodation.

The school also includes fitness classes four days a week in its curriculum, and operates a drug and alcohol free environment. “Drug testing is compulsory for all students and we have the first test five weeks into the course. Any student worried about a drug test will have cleaned up after that time and so should have no fear of failing. Drug testing is a part of seafood industry pre-employment training and employee screening, and is a pre-requisite to getting employment on a fishing vessel,” Peter says.

somethingPeter Maich boasts an almost 90 percent employment rate for students, getting jobs at Sealord Group, Sanford and Talleys Fisheries. Many of the students are taken from the Limited Service Volunteer programme that is run by the army for young, unemployed school leavers. “We find that once they’ve completed the LSV course, they’re disciplined and keen to learn new skills,” Peter says.

When they’ve completed the course, the students achieve an NZQA-approved qualification in seafood processing (level 2) and vessel operations (level 3). Most students want to get qualifications and skills behind them as they begin their working lives, Peter adds. “They are all young and, for one reason or another, haven’t continued with further education, such as university. The money they can earn in the fishing industry is a big attraction, especially when you might be 17 or 18 years old and earning around $50,000 a year for six months’ work. That’s a huge incentive.”

somethingThe school takes students on a continuing basis throughout the year and operates on a “no fees” basis to students who meet funding criteria from the Tertiary Education Commission Youth programme (TEC), Ministry of Social Development (MSD) funding for mature students, as well as Te Ohu Kaimoana.

For information on options, a completed application form needs to be sent to the Westport Deep Sea Fishing School. Applications can be downloaded here. Te Ohu Kaimoana offers full scholarships to young Māori wanting to attend the Westport Deepsea Fishing School. Click here to download a Technical Training Scholarship Application form. Contact us to find out more.