All crewmembers (as of 31 August, 2013) sitting management-level exams in the deck and engineering departments now have to undertake Human Element, Leadership and Management training, otherwise known as HELM. While some industry professionals are praising the training amid criticism of today’s senior crew, others are critical of its classroom-based setting. We hear two senior crewmembers’ differing opinions on this now-mandatory training.

First Officer Brendan McCarty

My initial reaction was that the introduction of this new course just seemed like another way to extract a few more dollars from crew or their employers, for what appeared to be another basic qualification that did not account for much in accreditation.

However, I soon learned that my assumptions were incorrect. Once I commenced the course and had a look around the classroom I quickly realised that I was not sitting in a room filled with people who had either grown up on or were passionate about being on the water. Moreover, a large proportion were going to sea not through passion but because the career would earn them good money.

It is becoming more common to see young people being hired straight out of school or off the docks into junior positions within our industry and then going to sea on large, powerful and potentially dangerous yachts. Due to their lack of experience they rely 100 per cent on their senior officers to teach safety protocols, procedures and dependable habits.

"It helps teach some easy methods of how they can bring up a concern without stepping on the toes of higher-ranked officers."

As I am sure most would agree, the basic STCW training required to start working on these yachts at a junior level is less than sufficient, considering the size of the equipment we operate on a daily basis. Quite frankly, in some cases I think the same issue of less-than-ideal training goes for some officers who are now expected to teach.

This is what I personally took from the HELM course, which provides lessons in how to teach junior deck crew and officers to open their eyes as to who, where and what is going on around them, and to have a general, situational awareness of what has happened, is happening and could happen if they continue doing the tasks they are doing. Not only that, but it helps teach some easy methods of how they can bring up a concern without stepping on the toes of higher-ranked officers through the chain of command and by not making themselves look incapable.

First Officer Adam Aldum

I am very much in support of leadership training. It is a fundamental skill that every yacht captain, first mate, chief stew and chief engineer should have. As the yachts we all work on get larger the need for effective man management is now more necessary than ever.

To begin addressing this the MCA has introduced its HELM training. I do have to say that it is about time. I am sure we can all connect with having worked for people who are great at certain aspects of their job but, when it comes to giving orders or trying to maintain rapport and crew moral, are just left lacking. The HELM course is a three-day course looking into what your people should mean to you and how best to lead them.
But just because you can learn to do something it does not mean it can be taught.

Leadership, like courage, can certainly be learned but, in my opinion, not taught. And particularly not taught in a classroom. My argument and question here is that in three days can you really instil in someone what it takes to be a leader? Some of us are born with a natural talent to lead people, to speak to them in a way they understand and at the same time get your point across. However, in a three-day classroom situation do any of us really believe we can change the way that yachting has for years shown its crew leadership?

The full article can be found in issue 66 of The Crew Report.