WILDCAT MACKAY – STUDENTS GO WILD!
As owner of three of the Mackay-Whitsunday region’s top tourism businesses, Asher Telford is used to innovating through challenges, his latest leading him to initiate a unique solution for industry-wide staff shortages, while also creating career pathways for local youth.
On Friday, October 29, a total of 31 Grade 11 and 12 students from 10 schools between Calen and Sarina, will complete their last practical session in a year-long specially tailored ‘Coxswain’ course, aboard Mr Telford’s state-of-the-art vessel and nationally acclaimed tourism product, ‘Wildcat Mackay’.
Officially part of the Queensland Government’s Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) program, enabling students to gain nationally recognised qualifications while still at school, the course has also been delivered in partnership with the Whitsunday
Maritime Training Centre (WMTC).
Across the year’s four school terms, WMTC trainers have travelled from Airlie Beach to Mackay each week, to deliver classroom training in venues provided by the Resources Centre for Excellence, Volunteer Marine Rescue Mackay and North Queensland Bulk Ports.
Additionally, for two days each term, and in many cases across weekends and school holidays throughout the year, students have been privileged to access valuable practical training and work experience aboard both Wildcat Mackay and other working vessels in the Airlie Beach-based Red Cat Adventures fleet.
With achieving the required sea-time for a Coxswain licence often proving the stumbling block for students who have otherwise successfully completed classroom components, Mr Telford said he hoped this approach would deliver real results. “I wanted to see these students trained in real life situations on real working boats, not just in a classroom setting and then dropped into the industry,” he said. “I also wanted to show our region’s young people that the maritime industry is up there with the mines as a satisfying career path; this is a profession where Australians are very highly regarded worldwide, so they’re effectively opening up opportunities to travel the world by gaining a global skillset.”
Queensland Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Palaszczuk Government invested $950,000 to help Red Cat Adventures get the award-winning Wildcat Mackay into the water.
“It’s terrific to partner with Red Cat Adventures on building a pipeline of skilled young Queensland skippers to grow the State’s regional marine tourism workforce,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“Skilled tourism workers are absolutely critical to maximising the 2032 Games’ two golden decades of opportunity for Queensland’s world-class destinations to shine on the global stage.”