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Crew training: perceptions versus reality

Are training schools really preparing green crew for the realities of working on a yacht?

There appear to be a number of concerns and frustrations surrounding crew training and the recruitment process. Whether it’s the rate of crew turnover or false pretences of what the life of a crewmember is really like, some are under the impression that there are rooted issues within the training and recruitment processes that need to be rectified in order to improve the overarching environment.

“As an industry we are short on qualified personnel and there is a need for trained quality crew,” says Sam Thompson of JMS Yachting. “My frustrations with training schools is that they advertise to a lot of young people and I cannot see for the life of me how these people are getting a proper understanding of the environment that they are going to come into.”

It’s no secret that life on board a superyacht can be a pretty gruelling experience, which is usually disguised by the odd social media post which portrays a member of the crew on a beach somewhere and #LivingTheirBestLife. What you obviously don’t see is the deck crew spending days on end washing down the yacht or the interior crew barely escaping the laundry room. The concern here is that many crews enter the yachting industry without knowing the reality of what is in store.

It’s no secret that life on board a superyacht can be a pretty gruelling experience, which is usually disguised by the odd social media post which portrays a member of the crew on a beach somewhere and #LivingTheirBestLife.

“I don’t feel that there is enough realism being portrayed in this industry,” Thompson continues. “You could be in that laundry room forever. But if people come in understanding more of what the environment is really like, then they will be willing to stay longer in their jobs, whereas at the moment we are getting a lot of short-term jobs.

“It frustrates me that people aren’t getting the whole picture of the industry,” he continues. “You have to understand that there will be private yachts that will be extremely tough.”

Those wishing to begin a career in superyachting are required to embark on a series of training courses, which can be extremely expensive, only then to leave the industry when reality strikes. Due to the structure of a superyacht, there is actually a need for this quick-fire role as not everyone will be able to become a captain, but the concern is whether training academies are selling the experience of a lifetime, training them up and sending them on their way without real career advice.

“I think what the schools are doing is playing a numbers game, which is understandable. But, what they should be doing is be a little more structured in how they do it and give people an actual career path, rather than saying ‘off you go’ with false expectations,” says Thompson.

He explains that he had posted a new crew job online two hours prior to our discussion, during which time he had received 85 different CVs for that role, showing just how competitive this market really is for those that have come out of a training academy. “I expect to receive over 200 applicants for this job and there will probably be about three people that will actually go forward for the job – it’s ridiculously competitive.”

Without a realistic impression of the superyacht industry, the fear is that 19-21-year olds are travelling the world, having spent a fortune on a training course, under the impression that they will secure the dream job, which isn’t always the case. “Many of them will come over to the South of France having done their training, get some daywork, spend a fortune and end up going back home.”

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Crew training: perceptions versus reality

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