Posted: 3rd December 2015 | Written by: Lynne Edwards
Does excellent training create excellent crew? An interesting question and the answer to which you’d hope might be a resounding YES! But there are many factors which create excellence in yacht crew and industry-related training is just part of the whole picture.
You can have the most highly-qualified and carefully-trained people in any department aboard, but if these crew members don’t enjoy their work, can’t interact well with others and cause conflict in their environment, then all the expense and time invested in their training is compromised or diminished by their negative attitude to their work.
On the other hand, highly enthusiastic and fully-engaged crew members who lack proper formal training are also not reaching their fullest potential, although they may be much more pleasant to be around!
Over the last few years we‘ve seen enormous changes in the industry:
• Larger and more sophisticated yachts are being built
• Yacht owners are more exacting
• An increase in the employment of management companies
• An increase in the number of training courses now offered to professional crew, with a significant augmentation in the area of interior crew.
Another of the more noticeable changes in the superyacht world has naturally been in the higher levels of professionalism expected of crew members in all departments. In the case of interior crew, steward/esses can no longer be tarred with the antiquated (and rather chauvinistic) “heads and beds” brush, insinuating that their sole purpose is to clean bathrooms and make beds.
It shows naivety and a lack of understanding and appreciation of the industry to underestimate the responsibilities the interior crew undertake, particularly aboard busy charter vessels.
Formalising interior training requirements
However, despite the vast array of responsibilities and huge variety of tasks being undertaken by interior yacht crew, the PYA’s Director of Training - and driving force behind the GUEST programme, Joey Meen, pointed out in an interview with Yachts International in May 2012 that “in surveys conducted in early 2011 by the PYA Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Workgroup, it was discovered that there was absolutely no formal or mandatory requirement for any interior crew to have any qualification—not even a Basic Food Hygiene course!
Whereas, in all other land-based hospitality sectors, including hotelier, bar and restaurant (and even fast food chains) service staff are required to attend at the least some training prior to being allowed to serve food and beverages to the public. In some cases this involves years of formal schooling in recognized education administrations.
Currently in yachting, it is still possible to employ someone off the dock in the morning and allow them to serve guests in the afternoon. How can yachting, which prides itself on delivering top-tier hospitality service, hope to achieve the high standard demanded of it when basic requirements are not formally in place?”
The road to GUEST
In view of those survey results, the CPD work group decided to hold an open forum at the Antibes Yacht Show in 2011 to ask those who are involved in the yachting sector if they felt that the interior departments would benefit from a formal, integrated and unified training programme for interior crew.
There was a 100 percent vote in favour from all sectors of the yachting industry. This forum was followed up with an online survey (assisted by the Crew Report), which confirmed this need.
As outlined in an issue of “Yachting Intelligence” the GUEST training programmes were deemed essential to the professional development of interior crew.
It was reported that, following a well-attended public meeting at the 2011 Antibes Yacht Show and in response to interior crew, captains and training providers, the Professional Yachting Association agreed to lead the development of a formal career structure for training and certification for interior crew members.
It was agreed that, although interior yacht crew has a vital front line role with Owners and guests, until then there had been little formal training available for this post, and the training that did exist varied widely in terms of objectives and standards.
The PYA established and identified the need for a standard of training and agreed to lead an industry working group that would create a formal structure for the training and professional development of interior crew, similar to the existing training route for deck and engineering crew.
This working group was 43 strong and made up of the PYA’s own Continuous Professional Development workgroup, along with industry professionals comprising of Captains, Chief Stewardesses and Stewards, Sommeliers, Butlers and yacht training providers from around the world.
Following years of discussion, planning and a great deal of hard work from those involved, this new industry standard has been designed to enable interior crew to keep pace with the changes and requirements of today’s superyacht world.
The career structure provides a balance of experience, combining formal training plus on board work experience to create a training ladder leading from entry-level as a junior stewardess/ steward right up to Purser.
There is a syllabus setting out the minimum training to be given at each level and any school that meets this requirement can apply for accreditation to issue PYA endorsed certificates to students who successfully complete these courses.
What does the training entail?
In brief, there are currently four levels of training and certification development available, supported by the completion of training record books to Head of Department level. These levels are as follows:
LEVELS and PRE-REQUISITES CERTIFICATES OF COMPETENCE
Introduction Yacht Junior Steward/ess
Operational Yacht Senior Steward/ess
12 months yacht service
Plus 60 days guest service time
Head of Department (under 500T) Yacht Chief Steward/ess
12 months yacht service
Plus 60 days guest service time
whilst holding Senior Stewardess position
Head of Department (above 500T) Yacht Chief Steward/ess
Half the required Management entry level (PYA written & oral exam)
yacht service and guest service will be on
vessels over 500GT for those applying for
above 500GT Management level
Once all modules of each level are completed, a Certificate of Competence is issued. It is not however necessary to complete all modules in any one level before starting to undertake modules in the next level(s). For details of the contents of the programme, contact either the PYA or one of the 23 accredited training providers worldwide.
The PYA recognises that there are many interior crew who have a wealth of experience currently working in interior departments and the GUEST program aims to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming all those with experience. Transitional arrangements have therefore been put in place with the aim being to grandfather as many people as possible in to the programme.
If an interior crew member has a significant amount of experience and wishes to make an application for a Certificate of Competence then they can download and complete a form on the PYA website. This should be sent along with any supporting documents for the attention of Joey Meen at PYA Head Quarters in Antibes. Application will be processed and a Certificate of Competence issued.
It is the industry’s hope that with increasing engagement in the new GUEST programme we can be ensured of a unified excellence in the standards of correctly-trained interior crew, as well as nurturing a culture of mutual inter-departmental respect amongst yacht crew. Since it’s official introduction in 2012, the PYA GUEST programme has been constantly reviewed and reformed and in excess of 3,000 certificates have been issued. It is certainly a step in the right direction.
Food Safety courses are now mandatory for all commercially registered vessels and are, in my opinion, essential to all members of crew who handle food, whether that be helping to bring food supplies aboard, setting the crew’s mess table or preparing and serving food. Prudent yacht owners and Captains should encourage the safe practices around food handling and personal hygiene taught on these informative courses.
With recognition of the necessity of this training by Yacht Owners, Management Companies and Captains as well as a degree of personal responsibility from interior crew themselves, current and future generations will really reap the rewards of a superyacht industry where excellent standards of service will consistently be delivered and where interior crew are eventually given the recognition they deserve.
With recognition of the necessity of this training by Yacht Owners, Management companies and Captains as well as a degree of personal responsibility from interior crew themselves, current and future generations will really reap the rewards of a Superyacht industry where excellent standards of service will consistently be delivered and where interior crew are eventually given the recognition they deserve.
So, now that the investment in time and money is being, or has been made in the more practical and theoretical aspects of the work of the interior crew, how do we ensure that they really enjoy what the job they are doing aboard?
Historically, there has been a large gap in the content of training programmes being offered to interior yacht crew particularly those already in, or aspiring to, management roles.
We have closed this gap somewhat with the introduction of management modules within the GUEST training programme, but without proper training in what is commonly now called “Workforce Engagement” or “Workforce Wellbeing” how could, for example, a would-be Chief Steward/ess, with very little life or work experience be expected to:
• properly lead teams
• manage conflict
• motivate flagging crew members
• cope with all the other rigours associated with dealing with fastidious yacht owners and charter guests and
• shoulder the responsibilities of heading up the day-to-day running and maintenance of the interior department of a multi-million dollar superyacht.
Add to that the inherent challenges associated with living aboard with, for the most part, very little personal or leisure time to re-align and recharge one’s batteries and crew members may well be faced with inevitable feelings of being overwhelmed and burnt out. This can subsequently result in disengagement, destabilisation of the department and eventual, unnecessary crew turnover.
This situation could be costly to any yachting organisation in terms of the investment in the people involved and of course it often adversely affects fellow crew members. It could also easily translate into underlying negative attitudes towards Captains, Management Companies, Owners and charter guests.
Is there a solution?
One solution is Energy Management workshops in which the principles of Workforce Engagement and Wellbeing are taught. These topics deal with many of the issues which pertain not only to interior crew, but to the broad spectrum of the yachting world, both shore-based personnel and crew from all departments working aboard superyachts.
Wellbeing is the new mantra in the workplace – the belief that a well-motivated workforce will deliver more, which will translate into better job performance. It might seem somewhat ‘New Age’, slightly esoteric and perhaps a little “touchy-feely” for the still male-centric world of yachting but, in truth, it’s earning its place as the next logical step beyond traditional motivational techniques.
Innovative approaches to wellbeing are based on self-awareness and self-motivation and enable participants to more easily reach their full potential in both their professional and private lives.
Energy Management is a unique approach to building lasting workforce engagement and genuine enthusiasm. It’s a process which can reconnect shore-based or on board teams with their own inner energy, igniting their passion, purpose and drive.
This results in the identification of new and different ways of achieving goals with levels of performance that surpass original expectations.
The industry is slowly waking up to the need for this type of supportive training with a similar rise in crew coaching and on board training from providers such as Alison Rentoul 'The Crew Coach', Peter Vogel of Interior Yacht Services, and Terry Gilmore of Abacus & March. Some management companies have already embraced this while others will surely be forced to recognise the need to compete at this level and will follow their lead.
Wellbeing fuels performance
The best superyachts have a special feel to them – and people feel it the moment they go aboard. They feel the positive vibes or energy and it is these energetic vibes which create the employee engagement, the happiness and the workforce wellbeing which fuel performance. Better workforce engagement in both yacht crew and shore-based teams can increase productivity and long-term job satisfaction as well as helping to:
• improve working relationships
• deal with competition
• reduce feelings of disempowerment and claustrophobia
• increase confidence
• reduce stress
• alleviate presenteeism (ineffective employees)
• reduce eventual loss of crew or staff
• reduce expensive and arduous replacement procedures
So, does excellent training create excellent crew?
The old adage of “knowledge is power” is not entirely correct, but the application of knowledge can indeed be very powerful.
All learning is an investment in oneself, for our present and future lives. By engaging in the various training courses available for superyacht crew, both the level of service given to Owners and charter guests, and the feeling of genuine job satisfaction, can be truly excellent.
About the Author
Having first completed an HND in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management in Oxford, Lynne has since acquired more than thirty years of experience in the hospitality industry, ten of which were served aboard luxury motor yachts and a further twenty in other yacht-related and villa management sectors. Lynne has extensive practical experience in all aspects of interior management in both the yachting and luxury villa sectors and has been a PYA accredited trainer for more than a decade.
In recent years Lynne’s skills were extended through various relevant training courses, including a Professional Training Certificate, the Levels 2 and 3 Awards in Food Safety in Catering and Energy Management in Business training. Lynne has recently become a PYA Council Member, to assist with the representation of the Interior Department and is a PYA GUEST approved Trainer.