Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

If you're thinking that uni might not be for you but you're interested in further study and love the great outdoors, you might be surprised by the options available in yachting and watersports. You don't need to have any sailing experience: training is available at centres like UKSA on the Isle of Wight, to students from all kinds of backgrounds, from total novices to experienced sailors. Here are just a few reasons to consider such an interesting alternative...

1 - A life on the ocean wave

Courses include a Professional Yacht Cadetship, Professional Yachtmaster, Superyacht Hospitality Training, Superyacht Crew Training and Watersports Instructor Training, offered by UKSA, but the one thing they all have in common is the open water. If you have a sense of adventure and a desire to learn new skills, you never know where you might end up.

Take UKSA Professional Yacht Cadet Tory Armstrong, for example, who could recently be found working on a superyacht (they really exist) in Italy, looking after everything from jet skis to helping the captain dock the boat. “I'm loving my job and the new things that I'm learning,” she says. “I've really found what I was looking for.”

2 - Great study facilities available

As well as discovering a range of courses to suit all timescales and budgets, yachting and watersports students might train on a fleet of yachts, work one to one with professional instructors or have access to learning aids such as simulator suites. Some courses, UKSA's included, are even fully residential with accommodation and food (but no bottles of rum, sensibly) included.

Dan Marks recently graduated from the first phase of UKSA's Professional Yacht Cadetship and found that it had a lot to offer. “I came to an Open Day at UKSA and it seemed well-organised, and since doing the course I would say it’s brilliant, the pace of it was great.”

3 - Different ways to fund your studies

Like many vocational courses, yachting and watersports programmes give you the chance to work in industry alongside your academic training. You'll be picking up a payslip and professional skills in a job related to your studies, as well as getting qualifications (which can include a Foundation Degree) at the same time.

There may also be bursaries and scholarships available depending on the course you're interested in. Ashley Redwood began his Professional Yacht Cadetship on the Isle of Wight with UKSA this year and received two separate bursaries, which helped lighten the load. “I fell in love with the idea of the course, but I had funding problems,” he says. “Staff at UKSA identified me as a potential candidate for a bursary, as I have a seafaring background. It's a huge opportunity for me.”

4 - Excellent career prospects

As if spending time sailing, windsurfing and generally taking to the water wasn't enough, courses can help you plot a course for all kinds of careers, some of them pretty enviable. As well as crewing yachts, racing, working in maintenance or even sales, you might find yourself in exotic places.

UKSA Watersports Instructor Training grad, Will Draper, for example, is managing a watersports centre in the Maldives. “The best thing about my job has to be the variance of activities each day,” he says. “One day I’m having lunch on an uninhabited island with guests by jet ski then the following day I’ll be surfing in the middle of nowhere.” Getting trained up in this area was definitely the right move in terms of developing “the necessary skills in and out of the water to become a well-rounded, safety conscious instructor,” according to Will.

"You can potentially double your salary via tips and get all your food and living expenses covered. I was able to save enough money to buy a two-bedroom house, giving myself both financial security and total job satisfaction at an early age." Jess Dawkes UKSA Professional Yachtmaster graduate

5 - Options for everyone

The opportunities aren't limited to higher education, either, with some institutions offering further education courses to 16-18 year olds. UKSA offers a Further Education, level 1-3 in Sport and Physical Activities course, or a Watersports Instructor Traineeship, which includes training in maths and English – ideal if you're looking to boost your grades as well as catching some waves.

In fact, the call of the sea might help you change things for the better. Rowena Macqueen started an environmental science degree at uni but realised it wasn't for her. She turned her attention to superyachts (courtesy of a UKSA cadetship programme) and never looked back, unless it was to spot the seagulls trailing in her wake. “I've learned so much about yachting,” she says. “The course has offered me a real alternative to uni.”

More about UKSA

UKSA offers the very best maritime training opportunities accredited/endorsed by a host of organisations, as well as being a youth charity that helps young people change their lives for the better.
UKSA courses aim to inspire young people, offering "an adventure they’ll never forget" developing the required skills to transition into a rewarding career.