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Looking to unlock future opportunities

People of the Thames

When the pandemic took hold, decimating passenger traffic on the river, City Cruises apprentice Beauty Marshall thought her career on the Thames was over - till the PLA threw her a lifeline. As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021, she shares her story and growing love for the river – as well as her tips for other school leavers considering their careers options.

“I grew up in Westminster and left school with ‘A’ levels in philosophy, psychology and sociology.

“I’d never really considered working on the river at all.

“As a child, it had not really played any part in my life.

“I was more into football and following Chelsea.

“But I joined City Cruises in November 2019, as cabin crew.

“Mum encouraged me to take up the opportunity. Friends were surprised, but were happy for me and supportive too.

“I first took an interest in what the crew did, arriving at different piers

“Captains and mates soon started teaching me how to tie up the boat, the different lines and how to do a pinch.

“Just when I thought I’d got that all learnt, the skippers kept on testing me on how we should come along side to dock.

 “I mostly relied on the big yellow mooring buoys to tell me what direction to berth.

“Then I was shown the engine room and taught little things, such as the bridges, bowline knots, two turn half hitch knots.

 “Day by day my interest grew, as well as my love for the river.

“I was soon captivated by it all.  

“I began to see the extent of what the work of masters and mates entails.  It really interested me.

 “It's not as simple as just driving a boat in a straight line and throwing some ropes out.

“People think it’s easy, but I can assure everyone it’s not.”

Covid crisis

“Initially at the start of the pandemic, we were given time off, which was OK, even fun at first, but I quickly got bored.

“My motivation soon began to dwindle.

“Then as the economic impact of the crisis on the river deepened, City Cruises had to make me and others redundant.

“It was inevitable, but still hit me hard.

“I was devastated.

“I really thought my time on the river had come to an end.

“But luckily the PLA came to my rescue.

“They offered to take me on to serve out my apprenticeship with them.

“My City Cruises colleagues, Jeremie and Clemence, were in the same boat and luckily have been transferred over to the PLA too.

“We have been very fortunate and are very grateful to the PLA for taking us on.

Guiding light

“I'd personally like to thank the PLA.s marine training manager Rachel De Bont for all the support and encouragement she gives to me and all the other the PLA’s apprentices.

“We all owe her big time and think the world of her.”

Best bit of the river?

“Definitely the middle district, from Greenwich to Westminster pier

“It’s where I started on the Thames.

“I have so many good memories of this stretch of the river.

“I am sure they will stay with me all my life.”

Career highlight?

“In November 2019, my training took me to Plymouth for a sea survival.  That was so much fun!

“We had to do an overnight challenge. It was a bit scary, driving out at night for the first time, but really cool to see all the regulation lights out. It really helped me develop my navigation skills.

“At City Cruises, I loved the bigger M2 vessels, driving the RIBs at high speed and working on the tourists’ tea time cruises.” 

Future goals?

“By the time I am 32, I'd love to be a skipper.

“I’d also like to mentor other apprentices

“And maybe spend some time at sea, like my friend and colleague Scarlett, who is just starting a cadetship at Warsash Maritime School.

“I’d ’definitely like to explore other sectors within the maritime industry, to see where I want to specialise.

“At the PLA right now, I want to improve my navigation and driving skills. I'd like to explore the other departments in the PLA too.

“But my focus is getting my boatmasters’ licence.

“It will unlock so many future opportunities.”  

Advice to your younger self?

“Try your best to achieve the best grades you can. It will open more doors for you.

“Join a sports club, or learn a musical instrument, something you enjoy.

“And if you're not sure what you want to do, that's absolutely fine.

“It will come to you much later on in life.

“You'll change your mind about your dream job 100 times before you leave school.

“But it's always good to have a goal.

“I'd recommend looking into apprenticeship, as you will be learning and earning at the same time.

“Keep an open mind too.

“For any young Londoner considering their career options, I’d say the river under your nose could be a route to long and happy career.

“And to my fellow females, my advice would be don’t think a career on the river is just for boys!

“So far at least, I am having fun and learning so much.

“That’s got to be a good thing?”

“Only Chelsea winning the title again could top it.

“Maybe not…”

People of the Thames
A series telling the stories of individuals with connections to the River Thames.

Living and breathing the Thames

Matt Rostron, the Rochdale-born CEO of London Youth Rowing (LYR) lives and breathes the river, for work and pleasure, and was drawn to it from an early age. Read more.

No better place to work than the River Thames

For almost two decades, the Thames has shaped the career of Cory Riverside Energy's Director of Logistics, Fran Comerford-Cole, a native New Zealander, who has a passion for getting more women working on the river. Read more.

Beguiling beauty of the river

It’s now almost two years since Patricia Stoughton started a fortnightly blog on the Tidal Thames. Her aim has been to try to unlock some of the stories “swirling around our beautiful, beguiling, dangerous, and ever-changing river”. Stories about people and places. And possibilities, like variations of patterns on the river’s surface, are endless. Read more.