In answer to Martin Gross, enquiring about the maritime engineering career of his father in or about 1931 in the February 2015 issue of Sea Breezes, it is necessary to make some assumptions.
Based on the terminology used, it seems to me that the career background may be USA based. To achieve a position as an Engineer Cadet on a large merchant ship, even in the 1930s, would require a mathematical and proven technical flare beyond most school dropouts. I suspect he did not dropout but probably went to sea against family wishes. The SS Exhibitor I have in mind was a six hatch American vessel shown on the photograph here. She seems to have survived into WWII as she is depicted in all Naval Grey of Government service. An Engineer cadet would have been assigned to the ship under the care of the Chief Engineer and the overall management of the ship’s Captain. He would have been attached for training to a watch-keeping engineer to learn his trade, so to speak.
He would have gained accumulative experience by assisting and later doing all running jobs in the Engineering Department such as wiping, oiling, stoking, taking fuel, taking water, distilling water, refrigeration, hydraulics, electrics, and of course working on machinery maintenance in the engine rooms and on deck such as winches and lighting. He would have done engine room watches with each engineer watch-keeper and recorded his day and all jobs carried out in his Cadet’s journal. He may have also have had a training diary based on the syllabus for Third Assistant Engineer, which would have been filled out daily and signed off by the responsible Engineer Officer. After the prescribed sea-time was completed, he would return to school for a pre-certificate course. He would then sit his exam and, once granted his Third’s Ticket, he would embark as a junior engineer and work to build sea-time and experience to gain his next highest ticket ie Second Engineer’s ticket. His final goal then was to work towards his Chief Engineers Ticket. Depending on trade and time in port, like all crew, he would have had time for a run ashore in most ports. I would recommend a book Eight Bells and Top Masts by Christopher Lee (ISBN 0 7472 6420 1). It evokes what life was like aboard a tramp steamer in the 1950s.
1 Cathedral Walk
Cloyne, Co Cork, Ireland