A number of recruitment agencies have reported an unusual trend with prospective crew of South African nationality trying to get their first job in the superyacht industry. In addition to the mandatory qualifications, a lot of new starters from South Africa are being seen with otherwise unheard-of courses on their CVs, under the belief that they are essential items needed to starting a career on superyachts.
One example given by a recruiter, who wished to remain anonymous, was one prospective candidate who had been advised by a South African company to take an expensive three-day course to learn how to do a wash down – a skill that is usually learned on the job. Are some prospective crew essentially being duped into spending unnecessary money in order to kick start their superyacht career?
Colin Schwegman, joint owner of Professional Yachtmaster Training, based in Durban, believes that a few unprofessional training schools in the country are to blame. “The average South African has no knowledge whatsoever of the [superyacht] industry and there are indeed training providers who take advantage of their naivety to sell them these ‘noddy badges’,” he says.
“Once they see the real situation in the industry, they find out that they have been sold useless bits of paper and are understandably annoyed, but the training providers in question don’t care because they have nothing more to offer in the way of higher level training.”
Schwegman advises that the bottom line is MCA recognition. “Anyone offering training without this stamp of approval had better have a very good reason for doing so,” he explains. “This is especially true of cleaning, which is best learnt on the job: everyone has their preferences particularly with regards to cleaning products, of which there is a mind-boggling variety on the market, and hardly any are available in [South Africa].”
Other culprits, Schwegman adds, are the purveyors of the fast-track ‘zero-to-hero’ certificates of competency; “They charge exorbitantly for artificial qualifying mileage on boats that bear absolutely no resemblance to the vessels on which the crew will actually be working.”
While Bluewater hasn’t particularly noticed a trend of unnecessary courses among South African candidates, Edie Guzman points out that auxiliary courses shouldn’t be disregarded, as they can show initiative to an employer. “We totally encourage additional courses to build [crew] knowledge of the industry and specific skills that are handy to know, for example Silver Service and Intro to Yachting,” she says.
Even when superyacht crew undertake the minimum of mandatory courses, many are still concerned with the unnecessary expense, especially if only starting out in the industry with no job guarantee. To find a middle ground, perhaps basic skills and experience that can be picked up on the job according to boat preference should be left until on board - and recruiters and training providers should advise accordingly. “Crew should be getting paid while they acquire proper on-the-job experience on appropriate vessels,” concludes Schwegman.