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The Progress of the Thames Skills Academy

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The Thames Skills Academy (TSA) is a group training association that was set up last year to support marine-based employers on the tidal Thames. We caught up with its chief executive, Julian Parkes to find out more about the organisation...

Why was the TSA set up and who on the river is it aimed at?

The TSA was established to provide a more cohesive and coordinated approach to maritime training on the tidal Thames. We aim to raise standards and the level of skills afloat, as inland waterways operator's face ever-increasing demands for their services.

Tideway has substantially funded our first five years' operation to both support the marine training needs of the Tideway project and leave a legacy when the project ends.

We hope the legacy is a step-change improvement in the maritime skills and standards, and a more effective marine training regime.

What have been some of the challenges you've faced?

The challenges have been getting the organisation up and running. This has been achieved with limited resources and the welcome assistance of, mainly the PLA and Tideway. Equally difficult, in some ways, has been persuading organisations of the benefits TSA membership will bring, especially those who either aren't interested or see no reason for the TSA. 

Perhaps some have seen us as a potential threat to the way they train staff and operate their vessels? But those fears are unfounded. And, obviously, we can't force employers to join the TSA.

How happy are you with the progress so far?

Very happy - we have achieved a great deal in a relatively short time. We only received our first funding at the end of June last year and didn't start to build the team until mid-November, when our office manager Gemma McKeady joined. Gemma was followed by Julie Lakin, group training officer, in December.

Are there other organisations providing the same service?

I believe we are the only maritime Group Training Association that is working to provide a wide range of marine and non-marine training to a relatively large number of employers.

Do you think its function/role is widely understood? If not, how can this be improved?

We are facing challenges in getting our message across to employers, especially those who see no need for a change and a better way of doing things, both to become involved as a TSA employer members and to engage with our training opportunities. We are seeking the advice and support of our partners to see how we can be more effective in getting our message over.

I'm very proud - especially of the TSA team's hard work and dedication. Everyone is really enthused and committed to making this work. They've all achieved a great deal in a very short time.

What does the future hold for TSA?

Growth and success. We need to be financially viable as a free-standing organisation by 2020 when the founding members' funding finishes. We also aim to be a training provider in our own right during the next few years, rather than just being a training broker, as we are at present.

Thank you to our Founding Members, The Port of London Authority and Tideway for their assistance in creating and advertising this article.

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