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Justin Caine’s Story

It is common to find the Sheltered Waters Marine professions as a second career. Many of the Captain’s, Engineers and Mate’s we’ve spoken to found their passion for the water after leaving something else behind that wasn’t bringing them fulfillment. The phrase, “I wish I had considered this sooner,” is a common sentiment and they encourage others to start early to build exciting and rewarding life long careers. There are so many amazing opportunities on the water.

“Explore your options, a Marine education can take you places. I see these courses as a door to the world.”

Justin Caine is a resilient and dedicated individual, and a committed Marine professional who made a mid-career change during the pandemic with the support of KEYS SAO Sheltered Waters Project. Justin attended our Three Week Marine Introductory Program in March 2021 and is currently pursuing his Mate ticket through our partnership with St. Lawrence College. He’s grateful to have made the choice to move into a career he genuinely loves and feels appreciated in. He has offered to share his story with us to bring awareness to opportunities in the industry.

Justin attended post-secondary school and attained a Diploma in Biotechnology. He worked in the hospitality industry while studying. By the time he graduated, he had built a secure career in hospitality management and opted to stay in this industry. His career choice felt safe and it provided security and reliability for his family, but something was missing. As he shared with us, “I became stuck, not happy with the routine but afraid to change. I always knew in the back of my mind that when I did make the change, it needed to be meaningful.”

A state of emergency was declared on March 17th, 2020 in Ontario during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hospitality industry entered an extended shut down. Despite the chaos and disruption, Justin found opportunity. As he said, “If COVID didn’t happen I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. COVID allowed me the opportunity to make a change that I otherwise wouldn’t have had time for.” Justin was able to reflect and focus on the change he needed.

Our ability to be resilient as individuals is reflective of the support we receive from those around us. Supportive families, communities and workplaces equip us to live more genuine, intentional lives, find fulfillment and believe in ourselves. Justin is grateful for the support he has received throughout this transition. He told us, “My wife worked on the water for a few years, and she often shares fond memories of the time she spent on the water and the team she worked with.” When the KEYS SAO Sheltered Waters Project launched, she encouraged him to sign up. The Sheltered Waters Project offers free training, skills advancement, and career development support for new and advancing Marine professionals in the Eastern Ontario region.

Justin graduated from the Careers on the Water Three Week Marine Introductory Program through KEYS Gananoque in March 2021. KEYS connected him to an employment opportunity with Gananoque City Cruises following graduation, and he has thoroughly enjoyed his first season as a member of the crew. Justin reflected, “I used to dread going to work. This summer I had a blast! I cannot wait for next season to start again. It’s like getting paid to do something that doesn’t really feel like a job.” He is very grateful for the support he receives from his new boss, Captain Matt Harper – Director of Marine Operations at Gananoque City Cruises. Justin expressed, “I’ve been here one season and I have a boss that sees a potential in me that I haven’t felt before. He believes in me and he’s committed to me and that gives me confidence.”

Justin is appreciative of the educational advancement opportunities for Marine workers offered by KEYS and St. Lawrence College. While the ships are away for the winter season here in Gananoque, he is studying for his Mate ticket. In the fall of 2021, KEYS and St. Lawrence College released phase two of the Sheltered Waters Project providing free online courses for current Marine workers to attain their Mate tickets and advance their careers. This year seasonality is an opportunity to pursue higher education and in the future, there will be year-round opportunities both locally and around the globe. Justin closes our chat with his advice to others thinking about joining the industry, “Explore your options, a Marine education can take you places. I see these courses as a door to the world.”