Bruce is a full-time Training Officer with NSRI in South Africa, but he has also taken part in some of the IMRF’s international work, recently helping to deliver the Train the Trainer course on rescue boat handling in Rabat, Morocco.

We’ve asked him to tell us more about his role and the international training work he’s undertaken.

What Is Your ‘Normal Day’ Like as a Training Officer with the National Sea Rescue Institute South Africa?

A normal day consists of a quick team meeting each morning around 6:00 am to plan what needs to be done and to debrief on some of the rescues that happened over the last 24 hours.

We plan and co-ordinate training courses across the country and most of the day revolves around the logistics associated with that and preparing the course material and content.

How Long Have You Worked for NSRI?

I started as a volunteer with one of the local stations eleven years ago.

I did skippers and navigation training for members of the public, which provided me with the necessary experience to move into a full training position at the NSRI training department when it opened.

I have now been working full time with them for almost two years.

Where Does the Training Take Place and Who Does It?

Our training team travels across South Africa providing training to our rescue crews.

The training varies from entry level crew training, basic navigation, seamanship and rope work all the way up to coxswain evaluations, radar and search patterns.

What Are the Challenges?

We have a small training team with some amazing individuals, but working with volunteers is often limited to working over weekends, which limits the time we can spend training with them.

Also given the current restriction on travels and social distancing[1] we have had to make a few changes to the way we provide training.

[1] The COVID-19 global pandemic means that most countries are observing social distancing and have introduced travel restrictions.

Did You Have to Adapt Your Training to Different Circumstances?

Very few training sessions, away from our training centre, ever go according to plan.

We adapt and change as necessary and make it work. The weather, tides, rolling power outages and the crew themselves are often situations that we need to work around, but it is all part of the challenge and fun of our environment.

What Are the People Like?

We have around 1,300 volunteers and they are very diverse, a group of amazing people.

The ages vary from around 16, all the way into the late 60’s, male and female.

Experience levels vary, and they come from all walks of life which adds to the challenge of providing training.

When you have a master mariner and big city teenager that has never been to sea in the same class, it requires some planning to ensure everyone receives training that makes their time worthwhile.

How Did You Get Involved in Delivering SAR Training in Africa for the IMRF?

In October 2019 I was invited with another training officer to attend IMRF training at the RNLI academy in Poole.

We had a great time working with some amazing instructors for a week.

We expressed an interest in assisting with the international training if it was ever needed, one thing led to another and I was asked to teach the course in Rabat earlier this year.

How Does it Differ to Delivering Training at Home in South Africa?

The training in Rabat was interesting in that I did not know the candidates or their level of experience.

It did make the planning a little more challenging, but with the aid of the local coordinator we worked with the challenges and the training was a success.

What Are the Best Bits/Most Rewarding Part of the Experience?

To me, one of the most rewarding parts is when the training goes as planned, but then a question or point of discussion starts during a break that leads into topics that were never intended to be covered, but that discussion provides more value to the group than ever anticipated.

Was There Anything That Happened That You Didn’t Expect?

Some of the training that had been scheduled was focused on the IMRF training manual and how to take the training back to each participants respective organisation, but unknowingly a few candidates in the class had already received the same training in Poole.

So, to make it valuable to those individuals, I used them to lead the discussions on various topics and turned it into a ‘train the trainer’ sort of situation.

How Do You Measure Whether It Was Effective or Successful?

I believe the training was effective as the discussions continued after class and the candidates came back with more questions the following day.

Various challenges were discussed within the group and it opened new channels for them to use to improve their existing skills and gain new ones.

From the perspective of the IMRF it demonstrated to the new members the level of commitment in providing valuable and relevant training on topics that are relevant to all rescue services.

Would You Do It again? And Do You Think It Is Worthwhile?

Yes, I would definitely do it again, professionally as a trainer, the more you work with a diverse group of individuals, the more you get to understand their needs and how to provide better training to meet those needs and demands.

What Would You Say to Another IMRF Member Wanting to Get Involved in this Kind of Work?

Being able to assist others, not only in a time of need, but in training and development is as rewarding as a successful rescue.

When you are training someone to accomplish a task that in the future can save lives, it is well worth it.