Continuing Education: USPS University

A Critical Need for 21st Century Boating

Published online: Mar 30, 2006 News United States Power Squadrons

The United States Power Squadrons has had a long and distinguished history in the field of boating education; a history that has seen a transition from preparing sailors for war to safety instruction involving recreational boating. Today, USPS is embarking on a grand plan for expanding that educational base through an outreach program known as USPS University.

To meet this challenge, the United States Power Squadrons has developed and made available, a program of continuing education that has the flexibility of change and is provided in a recognized format: The USPS University and a United States Power Squadrons Boater Certification Program.

Today's Boating and Boats

Today's on the water technology is more advanced; equipment is hotter and more complex. There is a definite continuing need to have an in-depth knowledge of many facets of boating, in the water and on the boat that go into the mix making boating fun and exciting.

Up-to-date information is important and necessary. New boats have space age electronics bolted into the boat or packaged in a completely portable carry-on arrangement. Materials and finishes of new hulls, decks, topside and interiors, have names and chemistry that didn't exist a few years ago and require something different for maintenance-- other than the usual can of paint or varnish. 21st Century construction and fabrication methods dictate that boat owners are faced with unique conditions for navigation, operation and care of the craft. Technical advances support unique and different computer based operation, navigation and information systems. These products are available from many suppliers off the Internet or imbedded into electronic chips in the equipment and often, available for purchase with the boat. New examples of such technology are nautical charts completely downloadable to a laptop computer with the latest updated information, affordable to boaters and available at the click of a mouse. The laptop is fast becoming a critical part of the control station on almost any size boat.

Different Water - Different Needs

The educational needs of fishing or water skiing on Lake Mead or boating on a local lake or river are vastly different than the challenges facing a boating family putting out for several days and many miles of coastal cruising to the shores off Lake Michigan, off Puget Sound, off Miami or off-shore from San Diego. Throw into the mix the information needed to be successful in sail racing, offshore cruising, cruiser navigation, various paddle sports or perhaps trailering a boat to new and different shores. The conditions vary and the need to know is intensified with each on the water activity. We no longer can assume that a "one size fits all" boating class will do the educational job of the recreational boating enthusiast.

It is clear that a comprehensive and custom tailored boating instruction program is needed for today's often-complex hi-tech and high energy on the water environment. Until now, there was no complete, updateable certifiable continuing education program for boaters.

What was Available in Support of Recreational Boating

The programs recognized or provided by many states often provide very short programs requiring but a few hours to review. Also available are many self-directed courses designed to emphasize the safety needs, some rules of the road and a heavy dose of the state rules and laws and occasionally some very limited navigation instruction. A quick and short course only provides the very bare bones information with a target of reducing boating accidents on the water. From that stand point, the short course concept has had success. The numbers issued by the US Coast Guard and the various State Boating Law Administrators indicate a reduction of reported accidents and deaths that is often attributed to the required or recommended learning programs in place.

This is good -- but better is now attainable!

Welcome to the 21st Century of Recreational Boating

USPS recognizes there is a need to find out what is right and more importantly, know what is wrong. USPS has continually taught basic and advanced recreational boating programs since 1914 and has a special interest in the education of people who find joy in "simply messing around in boats" and believes that the best way to approach the information challenge is to provide a comprehensive program that is user based, selective in content and has the look and feel of a substantial educational program.

The USPS University and the USPS Boater Certification Program

Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn describes the program, "The Boater Certification Program, a result of the new boating education structure that will be called USPS University, identifies, provides and instructs the courses that will enhance specific on the water experiences and provide the correct and necessary need-to- know information".

How Does USPS University and the USPS Boater Certification Program (BCP) Work?

The Boater Certification Program, identifies, provides and instructs the courses that will enhance specific on the water experiences and provide the correct and necessary need-to- know information.

In the USPS BCP, a series of core courses are clustered with an assortment of seminars made available by the member squadrons. This boater certification will include proficiency and skill building activities plus instruction and examination, covering elements of recognition for close to shore operations and navigation. Instruction for the offshore sailor and cruiser as well as advanced coastal navigation covers coastal boating with curriculum and instruction targeted to offshore and extended boating adventures.

At the successful completion of the various levels of the program a certificate is awarded as well as a wallet card for personal identification.

High Quality Instruction

USPS insures that the instructors are technically the very best. USPS has developed a comprehensive, national Instructor Certification program to insure that the material delivered in the USPS public education programs and seminars is state of the art and professionally presented by the squadron instructors. National Education Officer Dick Kyle noted that, "Thousands of USPS instructors have completed this new instructor certification program. Every day the number increases as the USPS instructors complete the certification program and obtain their USPS teaching recognition. The quality of our instructional staff is critical to the acceptance by the boating public and ultimately the success of the new USPS University program."

Reflecting on these exciting new educational programs, Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn notes, " In its simplest form, USPS University is designed to mimic the breadth and scope of a modern education system by significantly and immediately expanding the range of courses on topics of interest to USPS members and to the general recreational boating public. USPS courses will span the range from traditional to modern navigation techniques, from sextants to GPS, from VHF to Ham Radio, and beyond. The goal is to offer a full featured and diversified curriculum in boating education that is tailored to meet the needs of the basic boater while building advanced skill levels for experienced boaters".

The USPS University courses are envisioned and modeled on a principal similar to the US Coast Guard Captains License, as for credit courses and enhanced with mini-courses, and short seminars. Completion of the programs will lead to boat operator certification in four increasingly complex levels of competency; i.e. Inland, Coastal, Advanced Coastal, and Offshore Navigation. Coupled with recognition of our recreational boating partners, the program will provide certification that is nationally recognized with the fun and satisfaction of educational and personal success.

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A curriculum is being established to: (1) map current USPS courses to certification levels, (2) add seminars and mini courses, (3) add skill demonstrations.

In addition, USPS is seeking partners in other organizations and companies to assist and sponsor some of these programs, rapidly bringing relevant and modern boating education to the marketplace.

Current plans are for an initial roll out of the USPS University concept in August 2006 and the full program to be launched by January 2007. For existing USPS members, the new program will permit broader selection and flexibility in designing an educational curriculum allowing members to select which electives they are most interested in.

Kicking off phase one of the program, are six new fun and interesting USPS seminar courses. Seminar discussions and skill building activities are targeted to GPS, VHF and GMDS Radio Systems; Knots, Bends, and Hitches; Boat Handling; Weather; and How to Read a Chart.

With expanded curriculum, the reason for the label USPS University is apparent with broader and more flexible choices of educational topics and a number of certificate options.

The best way to get this grounding (pun intended)) is to be able to continue the search for comprehensive and complete knowledge about boating.

Boating information is like the tide - always moving - always changing.

For additional information about the United States Power Squadrons University, other educational programs, membership or activities, click onto www.usps,org or telephone USPS Headquarters at 1 888 FOR USPS ( 888-367-8777)

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