BCIT is committed to providing flexible pathways to learning, to facilitating reskilling, and to improving learner access—particularly for underrepresented groups. In support of this, the School of Transportation’s Enhanced Bridge Watch Rating (BWR-E) program is open to provide opportunities for women and Indigenous learners to train for exciting careers in the marine industry.
With funding from Transport Canada’s Marine Training Program, the BWR-E program provides Indigenous people and women with free or subsidized tuition, accommodation, course material, and more. The program is also supported by industry partners including BC Ferries, Seaspan, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, and others.
Captain Philip McCarter, Associate Dean, Marine, says the BWR-E program demonstrates BCIT’s core strength of collaborating with industry and government to deliver innovative, relevant, and hands-on training for learners across communities.
“BCIT has long been a pioneer in training the next generation of marine professionals, and the Enhanced Bridge Watch Rating program is really a testament to that,” says Captain McCarter. “This program is a result of the close collaboration with local communities, industry leaders, and the federal government. Together, we are supporting women and Indigenous communities in gaining hands-on experience for career opportunities in the marine industry.”
A hands-on program to embark on a rewarding career in the Marine industry
The 17-week full-time program trains students for careers working on tugboats, ferries, or deep-sea vessels, as well as careers in water-based ecotourism, commercial fishing, travel, and more.
Brittany Peden graduated from the BWR-E program in February 2020, and has just begun her career as a mariner, but she is already thinking about the future.
“My ultimate goal is to become a captain,” says Brittany, who is from Kitsumkalum, a community of the Tsimshian First Nation, and took her BWR-E training in Kitimat. “My grandparents are commercial fishermen and they take me out on the boat a lot, so it’s been great to show them some of the skills I’ve learned.”
Brittany, who graduated valedictorian, says while the program was challenging, it was a very positive experience overall. “Everything is hands-on, which is awesome,” says Brittany. “I really enjoyed it.”
Students in the BWR-E program are taught by instructors who are experienced seafarers, bringing practical industry skills and knowledge into the classroom. They teach the essentials of seamanship, including look-out skills, navigation, how to steer a vessel, how to handle ropes and chains, and anchoring and mooring.
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Students are job-ready as soon as they graduate
The enhanced program also offers more courses than the main Bridge Watch Rating pathway, providing learners with all the training and marine experience needed for full Transport Canada Certification.
Debbie Power, Program Coordinator, Bridge Watch Rating, says the program is ideal for those looking for a fulfilling career at sea.
“If you enjoy being on the water, with 17 weeks of training, you can be in a rewarding career with competitive compensation and benefits,” says Debbie. “Many graduates secure jobs with the Coast Guard, BC Ferries, and many other Canadian companies operating ships and vessels.”
Debbie says she enjoys seeing students find their footing as they begin new careers in the marine industry.
“It’s really gratifying when you hear from students excited about starting their first job,” says Debbie. “BCIT has always done a great job of helping students transition into the workplace.”
Keara Shepherd, a recent graduate of the BWR-E program, now works on the water, piloting a cable-ferry across a picturesque lake in Nakusp, in the West Kootenay region of BC.
“I’m a mariner and I love it,” says Keara. “Five years ago, I would have never expected to be in this industry, but I’m so happy that I am.”
She also says that, as a single mom, having access to subsidized tuition was incredibly helpful. “It’s a game-changer. It really is.”
Since June 2019, 80 students have successfully graduated from the Enhanced Bridge Watch Rating program. The BWR-E program is offered both at the BCIT Marine Campus in North Vancouver, and the Camosun College Interurban Campus in Victoria, with the possibility of some ‘in community’ training as well.
(This story is written by Chantal Eustace)