Launched nearly 40 years ago, the Nautilus JW Slater Fund has helped hundreds of seafarers to progress through the ranks. STEVEN KENNEDY spoke with two yacht officers whose careers have been boosted through the scheme…
The JW Slater Memorial Fund, administered by the Marine Society in association with Nautilus International, has been a lifeline for many looking to make their way in the maritime industry.
Named in honour of former MNAOA general secretary John Slater, it offers scholarships worth up to £17,500 to help Merchant Navy ratings with the costs of studying for a first certificate of competency and can help yacht crew and electro-technical officers to gain STCW certification.
So far, more than 1,500 Slater Fund awards worth over £4.5m have been made by the Union since the scheme was launched in 1977.
One recent recipient has given the Telegraph a glowing reference – explaining how the scheme allowed him to not only complete his courses for his blossoming career in the yacht sector, but also support his growing family during his studies.
George Oliver, 35, lives in Bath with his wife Sally and their two young children. After starting off in the sector in April 2012, George joined a 45m Benetti superyacht as a deckhand. A year later he gained promotion to bosun and started studying for the next step in his career.
Since March 2015 he has held the rank of chief officer, having completed his OOW and chief mate modules; an achievement, he says, that might not have been possible without Slater Fund support.
While studying for his OOW at Warsash Maritime Academy in February 2014, George picked up a copy of the Telegraph in the library and noticed the advert for the Slater Fund scholarship.
‘After reading it a few times and seeing they had just introduced it to superyacht crew I took a photo of it to bear in mind for the future,’ he recalls. ‘I remember thinking it was a little bit too good to be true. In this day and age it’s not common to see such funds open to all-comers. Usually it’s for cadets or those seeking commercial licenses.
‘Come autumn 2014 I was struggling to see how I was going to afford all the remaining courses,’ George says. ‘I contacted the Slater Fund in October and talked through my situation. I was told I could be a likely candidate and an application pack was emailed over to me. I spent a couple of hours a day for two weeks putting together my application.
‘I sent it off mid-November and was notified in the beginning of December that I had been awarded the scholarship and full funding. It was a huge relief. Up until then I was going to somehow have to balance affording my courses with unpaid time off work and also keeping up my payments for mortgage and costs of having a family. Sitting and doing the sums it wasn’t going to be feasible without outside assistance; or selling something.’
‘Put simply, I am where I am now only because of the assistance the Slater Fund was able to give me,’ he adds. ‘I have a professionally recognised ticket which allows me to find work and travel around the world and I can be proud of my achievements to date.’
Now George is looking to the future for himself and his young family. ‘I am very grateful to the Slater Fund and its continued generosity in supporting me through this journey. It is capped off by the fact that I have accepted a new role and challenge on a larger, modern custom-built superyacht as their new chief officer. Without the Slater Fund I would not be looking at such opportunities,’ he concluded.
For more information about the Slater Fund, visit www.marine-society.org/slater-scholarships.