Interior Welcomes Training Standards


The Professional Yachtsman’s Association has recently announced plans to develop a formal training and certification requirement for interior yacht crew.

This is exciting news. There has not been much formal training available, and there are varying standards and objectives for the training that does exist.

One of the challenges of yachting has always been the lack of a training or competency standard for interior staff, unlike the deck and engineering departments. Interior staff are on the front line with owners and guests, and it is their responsibility to ensure that everyone on board is having a fabulous, stress-free vacation, so you would think that training would be vital.

This lack of a standard means that, on the one hand, crew may not know what is expected of them from one boat to the next, and on the other hand, owners may not know what skill sets they are getting from one crew member to the next.

Maybe a formal training and certification requirement will sort everything out in the long run. I just hope that there will be a competency exam so that qualified and properly trained crew can get credit for their experience and test out of the system without being required to repeat classes.

As business guru Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets managed.”

I have always felt that interior crew are at a distinct disadvantage because we have little empirical data to measure. Much of our skill set is based on soft skills such as service or people skills, for which it is difficult to measure proficiency.

One solution is the use of checklists and task sheets combined with frequent inspection and regular feedback to be sure our expectations are being met. The importance of offering praise, correction and constructive criticism builds the framework for a basic system of measuring and managing the progress of soft skills.

The management of service skills can be particularly challenging, because there is conflicting information available and various methods are being taught in courses.

Many times, the solution to this dilemma means simply learning the basic rules and knowing the “correct” way to perform certain duties, but then remembering that rules are meant to be broken.

A large portion of our jobs is based on subjective experience.In other words, we may know the “correct” way, (after all, we just took a silver service course), but in reality, the right way for our particular boat is based on subjective interpretation. Basically, whatever the owner or chief stew says is “the rule” determines what type of service we deliver.

In addition to mastering basic skills, it is important to learn the practical and historical significance of the various sectors of our job. Knowing more about our work environment increases the level of interest and motivates us to do better. It also helps us understand the value of the things we care for.

For instance, the crystal glasses and stemware we serve wine in can cost hundreds of dollars apiece. It would be wise to be aware of that and to know the proper way to care for them. It may seem kind of crazy at first, but if we understand the history and production process of various materials we work with, we can understand the value structure better.

There seem to be several schools of thought on the issue of training on the job, and a mandatory standard may help resolve this issue. Apparently, some team leaders do not take the initiative or accept responsibility for training their staff.

Whether because they are insecure about their own skill level, or because they think someone is going to take their job, refusal to train your staff leaves crew feeling deficient in their jobs. Even worse, crew who are not trained are not usually given much responsibility, and this is demotivating and demoralizing. Refusing to teach important skills to others can leave them feeling intimidated or humiliated.

The flip side of this issue is the claim that crew don’t want to listen or learn, which means they can’t be trained. There will always be that element of people who really don’t want to work, or don’t understand the scope of the work involved, and have less than honorable intentions.

Let’s face it, there is a huge social element in this industry and sometimes that is the reason people are on the job. Often their attention is more focused on after-work activities and it is hard to get them to focus on the work at hand.

When you try to show them how you want things done, they brush you off, with “oh, yeah, I know”, but then when you go back and check on them, they are doing a poor job. Lots of people are willing to train, but crew have to be willing to take instruction.

The bottom line is that no one can help you if you don’t want learn, and if you don’t want to learn then maybe this is not the right job for you. It’s not always easy. However, some of the best lessons of your life will come from the most difficult situations, and the right attitude and a little initiative can take you a long way in this industry.

Developing a formal training and certification requirement could be the best thing that ever happened to us, and I am really excited about that. The best way to predict the future just may be to create it.