From stews serving wine to the brim of a wine glass to shrinking (to the point of destruction) guests’ clothes in the wash, we’ve all heard the horror stories of crew new to the job who don’t quite know what they’re doing. As a result, we’ve seen lots of training providers, under the auspices of GUEST Standards (the now standalone but previously PYA branch that sets non-mandatory standards of interior training for the superyacht industry), push for more new stews to undertake the relevant training.

Now, when any training school advertises or pushes for any non-mandatory courses, the industry’s immediate reaction is to criticise for being too business-minded and taking advantage of green crew who aren’t sure which courses would be advantageous. Keep in mind this is exactly the reaction the industry received following the introduction of the STCW refresher courses, even though these were – and are – required by law.

Yet there is something to be said for this argument in the context of interior training. My personal opinion, for those who wish to know it, is that the good, professional training schools genuinely believe in the value of interior training, and while they need to make money (they are businessed, after all) but are really behind this initiative.

However, the more I speak to captains, the more I hear of their indifference to interior training; not because they’re against it, but because any crewmember, stews in particular, that joins the yacht will need to have boat-specific training, taking into account everything form the yacht’s service pathways to how the owner likes his or her favourite cocktail and at exactly what time - things that simply cannot be taught in the classroom. And the individuality of service on board each and every superyacht is, after all, the USP of this industry, and its value cannot be denied. The question, then, is this: should interior training be a prerequisite upon which to build yacht-specific training, or do we do away with interior training altogether?

If you ask me, the answer to this question is, outright, we do not do away with interior training. There is no denying that each superyacht and their owners have unique requirements and expectations, but there is something to be said for the phrase ‘practise makes perfect’ – surely by providing new crew with the building blocks, they can only get better. And what happens if the way that owner likes it just so happens to be the way that stew has been taught? Problem solved.

Go to a training course for a sample or ask the training school for a detailed plan of the training course and exactly what the stews will learn.

But I think there’s a bigger issue that the industry, and those captains who pass over interior training courses in preference to on-board training (the latter of which, I want to make clear, I wholly support), is shying away from. In an ideal world, a green stew gets their first job and has a dedicated interior team to train him or her up, to meet those unique owner expectations. The reality, however, isn’t always as simple.

How many times have recruitment agents been in a rush to find a stew to join a last-minute boss trip? How many times have new stews been welcomed on board with the best intentions of being trained up, but that training just keeps find itself underneath something else on the priority list? Sadly, at the moment at least, as an industry these scenarios aren’t exactly rare. So what would you prefer? A stew who has been waiting for that specific on-board training but, without it, really has no clue where to start? Or a stew who might not yet be able to provide service tailored specifically to that owner, but has been trained to provide top-level service focused on those spending time on board superyachts? I won’t leave my opinion on that – I think it’s pretty obvious.

So with that in mind, all I really have to say is this. Give training schools – the good, professional ones – a chance. Before you dismiss the value of interior training, whether you’re a captain, a manager or a charter broker, get to know the training you’re planning on dismissing. Go to a training course for a sample (I’d imagine if any training school thinks this could result in a captain/manager/broker sending a yacht’s full interior complement they wouldn’t have a big issue with this), or ask the training school for a detailed plan of the training course and exactly what the stews will learn. If you’re still not convinced, then by all means dismiss the training. But I think your minds might just be changed.

For those who are thinking that there just might be something in what I’m saying, GUEST Standards is, in fact, hosting an Awareness Day in November, in Amsterdam, to give the above-mentioned pool of captains, managers and brokers, not to mention other senior crew, owner representatives – really, anyone who is passionate about the quality of service on board – the chance to experience a GUEST Standards introductory interior training course. These Awareness Days are something I’ve been attending for a few years now, and each time I, along with the captains, brokers and managers in attendance, find myself genuinely amazed at the level of detail that goes into these courses, and the benefits they unequivocally offer to those truly focused on high-end customer service and, most importantly, the end user - the owner and guests. (The GUEST Awareness Day is taking place in Amsterdam on 17th November, the day after The Superyacht Forum – for more information, or to register your place, click here.)

The gap in crew skills is undoubtedly a hot topic that leaves much to be both desired and discussed, and is the focus of a workshop on day two of The Superyacht Forum. For more information on attending or how to get involved, please click here.