What follows is an attempt to get the luxury yacht charter industry to face some severe shortcomings in what is being taught and what is being learned by the people in it. The time has come when we must bring ourselves, whether kicking and screaming or through mutual co-operation, onto the next level of professional development for the benefit of all us privileged to be working in the industry. Obviously, some will dismiss all this as a waste of time and another excuse for training providers to screw a few more Euros out of yacht crew: if you instinctively agree with this last statement then this article is addressed to YOU more than anyone else!
Whatever your views many observers both inside and outside the industry feel that ongoing training is essential. A large Italian yacht builder, for example, has recently set up its own crew school and regularly hosts training seminars for its fleet. So if it is already happening what’s the problem?
The impression that I get from the luxury yacht charter crew that I teach seems to reflect both sides of the argument. Like any good instructor I teach in as interactive a style as I can. This means that crew often say things to me that they might not say to their captain or owner (or to my bosses in Blue Water!). Here are a few quotes…
‘Owners should be doing this course!’
‘Captains have no concept of man management!’
‘Crew are lazy and are only looking for the easy way out!’
‘Management companies have very little training in management skills!’
‘Training establishments are only interested in taking your money!’
Of course as many will be quick to point out, the charter yacht industry has already changed a huge amount. In the early 1990s it was recognised that a professional system of qualifications was required for the industry. Yachts were beginning to be built in such numbers and to such a size that t was becoming generally acknowledged that if the industry didn’t take the initiative for training then the government would step in and impose its own standards, not necessarily adapted to the yachting environment. The Professional Yachtsmen’s Association was formed specifically to do this. The result was the old master class 4 and 5, now replaced in line with STCW95 and with a parallel structure for engineers. At first people howled about it but now no one seriously challenges the need for these qualifications. But what has happened since then?
Many people, having got their tickets, seemed to think that they had ‘made it’ and were only bothered to keep their skills updated if required by the MCA, I estimate that only 3% of certificate holders voluntarily return, for non required training or refresher courses, to keep their skill levels up to date.
So, back to the original question, who is benefiting from yacht charter training; the Owner or ships officer who does not have to attend or pay for extra training, or, is it crew and guests who entrust their lives in the yacht management team’s levels of competence? Surely professional skills like passage planning, radar operation, navigation should be maintained to a high level. We often hear of high profile yachts involved in collisions and groundings, but they are just the high profile ones; many more incidents occur which do not receive the same level of attention (but I hear about them on my courses from the crew who witnessed them). In my view increased ongoing professional training would go a long way toward improving this.
In many industries and professions across many parts of the world ongoing professional and personnel training is an accepted and welcome fact of life. In the UK a quality organisation called ‘Investors in People’ has been set up to promote this very thing. In France the government ‘Formation Continue’ scheme is specifically designed to encourage personal and professional training amongst salaried employees. This type of training ensures that the business or organisation continues to improve because the staff avoid professional stagnation.
Investors in People, in fact, promote some strategies to improve the organisation which are conspicuously lacking from the current MCA training programme in areas such as leadership and personnel management, appraisal and assessment skills The Investors in People benchmark offers a framework for improving business performance and competitiveness through good practice in human resource development. Companies and organisations who wish to gain the ‘investors in people’ kite mark must show that they have procedures to monitor performance and develop training strategies to improve it. It runs along similar lines to other quality assurance systems and yachts who are already certified for ISM might not find it too difficult to add type to system on to it. I believe this type of training could improve the wellbeing of everyone connected with the industry.
I have emphasised the importance of continuation yacht charter training in areas concerned with safety but we are not just talking about safety here, we are talking about PERFORMANCE across every aspect of a yacht’s activities. In businesses companies devote resources to training because in the long run it makes them more profitable and efficient. Yachts should not just passively assume that they provide the best possible level of service to owners and charterers they should actively make sure they do by continuation training. Here are some subject area for training that would improve the performance of every yacht
Team leadership & management skills
Inter personnel skills
Financial and accounting skills
Train the trainer
If the industry wants to move on and be seen to move to a higher professional level I feel certain things need to change, Out must go the attitude ‘ It was good enough for me so its good enough for you’ and in must come ‘how can we improve’. Attitudes like ‘its not broken so don’t fix it’ are ultimately doomed to consign any organisation to mediocrity. If you always do today what you did yesterday you will always obtain the same results. How about a course in change management? It is a skill which can be learn: with just small adjustment in how we approach a new concept change can be a positive, informative and helpful process.
Many people in the industry (ashore and afloat) believe they deliver the premier maritime leisure experience available. They could well be right BUT, how can they be sure? Levels of service in yachting (at its best) are second to none, but the level of knowledge required to manage crew (i.e. people), needs to be dramatically improved.
There are still many people in the industry who believe the concept of ongoing personal and professional training is just a distraction. Sometimes they are the first to ask for help; not by asking their own management companies for the information they require for fear of being seen as less than competent, but by asking friends or companies in the industry!!
In conclusion, the above may sound like a training provider looking for work, but I’m sure all who read the article will be able to identify areas where they wish they knew more. Being honest about this and then taking it further and seizing ownership of an industry wide ongoing training programme is what I really would like to promote. Only by working together will we manage the industries’ prolific growth and maintain a large pool of highly motivated and trained staff. There are many people out there wanting to embrace change I believe it’s a great industry but like all great things there is always room for improvement. Lets do it!