Staff and supporters of the maritime training charity UKSA welcomed a very special visitor in August when HRH The Princess Royal arrived in Cowes to officially open its new Sea Change accommodation centre. The 136-bed facility will enable the charity to welcome an additional 3,000 young people each year.

As patron of the Island-based training provider since 1992, Her Royal Highness spent the afternoon taking a tour of the new facility, unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion and meeting donors whose generosity has enabled the project to come to fruition. She was greeted by UKSA CEO Ben Willows, Chair of UKSA Trustees Kevin George, and the Island’s Lord-Lieutenant.

The new accommodation, with its configurable zones, offers more flexible arrangements for those staying – whether a child on a school residential, a student training at UKSA or someone taking part in one of its many water-based programmes.

Ben Willows said: “We’ve been incredibly proud to show Her Royal Highness our new accommodation centre and demonstrate what a difference it will make to the number of young people we are able to help”.

Since 1992 UKSA has grown to be the largest RYA training centre in the world, welcoming 11,000 people through the doors each year. Ben Willows described the project as a “huge undertaking”, especially given the challenges of the global pandemic.

“I am extremely humbled by the incredible support shown by our donors in helping us raise the £4.3m that has enabled this transformational project to become a reality” he told the audience.

Following the tour and plaque unveiling, Her Royal Highness met children from Tile Cross School in Birmingham, and Downside Fisher Youth Group from London, who were on the five-day Sea.Change Foundation, a residential programme for teenagers to learn about training and careers in the maritime sector.

The charity recently announced that it had funded a record 3,275 young people on water-based adventures during 2021, including 1,400 Year 6 students from the Isle of Wight who took part in its Test the Water programme. 

It also shared that 285 UKSA students entered maritime employment in 2021, further cementing its reputation as the world’s leading maritime training centre with industry-leading instructors helping thousands of individuals launch long-term careers.

Offering a credible alternative to university and the opportunity to enter the workplace with qualifications, skills and real-life experience, UKSA’s training can provide pathways for roles such as deck officers, deck and interior crew, yacht skippers, watersports and sailing instructors.

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