Increasingly we are seeing superyachts squeezing more and more into their already-tight schedules, but how does this impact crew when it comes to finding the time to train? Mikaela Zehnder, training development manager at Barcelona’s Nautical Academy (part of Sovren Group), launched just under a year ago in October 2013, explains why on-board training is a key focal point for the training school.
Zehnder has spent much of her career in the crew industry, stepping off boats and away from the chief stewardess role (both on board and on new builds in the shipyard) just over a year ago, in May 2013. For Zehnder, the focus on on-board training lies in the key benefits reaped when she undertook this type of training herself as a chief stewardess. “We ended up doing some on-board training, which is what me made so passionate about the on-board training that we’re doing here, because I did it and it was phenomenal. I learned so much and we as a team learned a lot.”
Zehnder’s experience of on-board training was at the end of a new build, when this type of yacht-specific training can be particularly useful, she adds. “We didn’t know the boat, we didn’t know each other, we didn’t really know what was going to happen and we didn’t know the owner, so we really needed to have that shake down training. I’m 100 per cent for on-board training because in addition to the convenience factor, it’s so beneficial to be in your environment.”
The benefits of on-board training are clear in the context of today's increasibngly busy industry that is asking more of today's crew. "The main thing that crew say in regards to training is, 'We're only here for three weeks, we don't have time'. And that's been such a big cry-out from the industry so it's being able to fit into their time. it's about not interrupting their daily flow of work, and on-board training is most convenient for them. It's all about time. Since they're on board, they can work during the lunch hour, or if they want to start at 10am they can still have two hours every morning to work and get everything ticking over. It's not that the whole world has to stop for on-board training."
An additional benefit of on-board training is the ease with which a yacht’s full crew can get involved – something that, as yachts are getting bigger, is more and more important. “We’re really trying to emphasise the whole crew. You’re doing your whole development when everbody works together. You’re a family and you need to be able to work together in the most stressful situations,” Zehnder explains.
"I’m 100 per cent for on-board training because in addition to the convenience factor, it’s so beneficial to be in your environment."
When it comes to the interior, however, Zehnder’s passion goes even further. As a department still lacking any mandatory training, any kind of training tailored specifically to the yacht is likely to be of more benefit to the yacht, its owner and its guests than generalised interior courses. To ensure the most is gained from this type of training, the Nautical Academy approaches each on-board training with a questionnaire to fully prepare them for what they need to offer to that specific boat. “What have what we call a level questionnaire that we need prior to going on board. It is important to know where their crewmembers are; what level or what training they’ve done in the past, because that is a good gage. We need to know the type of ship and everything – the size, a background on how they’re working and more or less what the owners like, because sometimes owners have specific taste. They’ll have to go through a bit of questioning and if it’s very complicated and there are lots of specific levels we will do a visit on board before.”
On-board security training is also a popular option for today’s crew, Zehnder explains. “Security training is quite popular on board because it actually focuses on the safety and security elements that are taking place on board their yacht, so it’s highly beneficial to them. Even if they’re 100ft away from our training facilities sometimes they opt to do it on board.”
The Nautical Academy’s offering of on-board training makes sense considering the school’s location within MB’92 – all year round the school will have yachts on its doorstep and, during a refit period, it is likely the crew will be able to find slots of time to fit in some form of training. But even taking the proximity out of the equation, in the context of today’s increasingly complex yachts and their increasingly busy schedules, where crew can’t always afford (financially or time-wise), the on-board training sector is certainly opening its doors.