The Professional Yachting Association (PYA) has been the force behind raising the training standards for interior crew with its Guidelines for Unified Excellence in Service Training (GUEST). Yet the landscape of interior training remains under scrutiny, some bemoaning too many optional courses while others lament the lack of any mandatory certificates. In the first preview of issue 70 of The Crew Report, we hear from a recruitment agent, a training provider and a chief stewardess about the impact of GUEST on the industry.

The GUEST programme at The Crew Academy. Credit: Natasha Rajalingam.

Chief stewardess Michelle Brown, MY Elandess

When I first heard about the GUEST programme, I have to be honest, I thought it was yet another piece of bureaucracy that wasn’t really necessary; another way to make money out of stews by sending them on courses that they don’t really need. However, I definitely felt that the Yacht Service Level 3 course that I attended [at The Crew Academy] had a lot of value and it made me think twice about the programme in general.

I personally don’t think that you need to have ticked all the boxes on the GUEST programme to succeed in this industry and any captain looking to employ new stews can certainly see from a CV what areas of training have or haven’t been covered by a candidate. However, it does definitely set a benchmark. Eventually those captains won’t have to sift through whole pages of CVs listing numerous certificates; it will all be encompassed under one umbrella in the same way the STCW basic safety training encompasses four different certificates. Captains will know that the candidates they are employing actually do have the knowledge and acquired skills that they claim to have. I also think that an accredited system such as the PYA GUEST programme will ensure that enthusiastic stews, who are keen to further their careers, don’t get ripped off by sub-standard courses.

Anonymous recruitment agent

I understand training schools are in the business of selling courses, however the new stew courses to me, and many others, seem to be yet another way of milking money off crew. On researching how captains feel about these PYA courses for interior crew, most of the feedback received was that yes, they’re nice to have, but captains are not really bothered – if the crewmember had a strong hospitality background, be it restaurants or hotels, that’s all that’s required in order to start as a junior. With a good chief stew to guide there’s no need to spend 1,000 euros on a course explaining the ins and outs of detailed cleaning and linen folding – this stuff will be picked up in the first week of work. Dayworking pre-season will show any interior crewmember how to detail a boat from top to bottom and service skills can be taught on board; again my research showed that most chief stews would rather take on a person with real-life restaurant service skills and train them up in the ways of that particular vessel’s requirements.

"On researching how captains feel about these PYA courses for interior crew, most of the feedback received was that yes, they’re nice to have, but captains are not really bothered."

I’m not belittling service staff at all when I say that working as a waitress is not usually something that requires extensive training and as far as I’m aware, to work in a seven-star hotel you don’t need to pay out a thousand bucks to do a course first. So why should you do so to work on a yacht? The only time I believe a crewmember should do one of those courses is if he or she has absolutely no experience whatsoever of hospitality or housekeeping and also suffers from a lack of confidence. The number of brand new crew who’ve come into the industry, taken roles as a sole stew on smaller vessels with nobody to guide them and despite having no prior yacht experience been able to competently run the interior is not low. It seems if you have common sense you’ll do OK.

Charlotte Roch, managing director, The Crew Academy

The GUEST programme in its current form tries to capture – as best as possible – all the elements (modules) required to effectively complete an individual’s base set of service skills. There is no doubt that varying opinions exist pertaining to the relevance and structure of some GUEST elements; some may require additional guided learning hours while other topics may seem superfluous. However, as the programme becomes more widely adopted and the number of courses being run increases, it will naturally evolve to more efficiently reflect the needs of the yacht interior training sector. What it needs to reach this, in the meantime, is the support of all industry members (both crew and management) so that it can become the universal tool that it is designed to be.

These comments can be read in full in issue 70 of The Crew Report - click here to download.