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Q&A With PYA on Interior Crew Training

Captain’s Log Editor Kenny Wooton contacted the Professional Yachting Association with questions about its Industry Standard for Interior Crew Training and Certification (ICTC). PYA president Andrew Schofield and Honorary Secretary Joey Meen replied by email. They requested their responses be published verbatim.

Captain’s Log Editor Kenny Wooton contacted the Professional Yachting Association with questions about its Industry Standard for Interior Crew Training and Certification (ICTC). PYA president Andrew Schofield and Honorary Secretary Joey Meen replied by email. They requested their responses be published verbatim.

*What was the genesis of the PYA proposal for certification?

Firstly, why did PYA create an industry standard? Why didn’t the regulator (Coastguard) do it? Well, the answer is quite simple. When it comes to the sea, national rules and regulations are a reflection of the international maritime conventions. Where the international conventions are silent, so are national rules. International Maritime Conventions focus on pollution prevention and safety at sea. They do not concern themselves with hospitality training. It is for this reason flag states are not in a position to regulate. The UK Coastguard recognizes this lack of oversight as an issue. In cases where the regulator does not regulate, then it is up to industry to create its own standard. There are many examples of industry standards, so this is actually quite a common path for self-regulation.

In 2004 at the Seas Conference in Nice, there was a meeting of worldwide MCA training providers, and the idea for an interior crew training route was suggested during this meeting. This was never followed up. Since then, PYA has had many comments from members, training providers, yacht crew, agents and management companies as to why there has never been a formal career structure or training guidelines for interior crew—one similar to that for deck and engineering officers who already benefit from a clearly defined training and certification path. Captains and management have spent years looking at great CVs with “interior training” certificates that hold little bearing.

*We’ve read the brochure description of ICTC GUEST program, but how did you come to believe the industry needs such a program? What was the motivation behind it? Improved crew retention rates? Owners/captains complaining about declining performance or qualifications?

The PYA Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Workgroup took this feedback and did some research. It found that there was absolutely no formal or mandatory requirements for any interior crew to have any qualification—not even a Basic Food Hygiene course, where as within all other land-based hospitality sectors, including hotelier, bar and restaurant (and even fast food chains) service staff are required to attend at the least some training prior to being allowed to serve the public. In some cases, this involves years of formal schooling in recognized education administrations. Currently in yachting, it is possible to employ someone off the dock in the morning and have them serving guests in the afternoon. How can yachting, which prides itself on delivering top-tier hospitality service, hope to achieve this high standard when basic requirements are not in place?

The CPD work group decided to hold an open forum at the Antibes Yacht Show in 2011 to ask those who are ensconced within the yacht sector if it felt that the interior departments would benefit from a training program; there was a 100 percent vote from all sectors of the yachting industry that there should be a formal and more unified training program for interior crew. This forum was followed up with an online survey (assisted by the Crew Report), which confirmed this need.

Quite clearly there is a gap. PYA’s aim is to fill the gap. The PYA’s Guidelines for Unified Excellence Service Training (GUEST) have been created for the industry, by the industry. The work group is made up of 43 industry professionals who have contributed to this initiative. This group is made up of captains, chief stewardesses and stewards, sommeliers, butlers and yacht training providers. Training providers are eager to know how to participate in the accreditation scheme.

Benefits to the individual are continuous professional development. This can only benefit the crew as a whole. However, most important are benefits felt by owners and guests. These should be the most profound. It also benefits those who have worked in interior departments as when they leave currently have nothing (in training terms) to add to their CVs despite years of service.

Photo by John Anderson

*Have crew training agencies picked up on it? Have they been cool to the idea?

Crew agencies and schools have supported the program from the outset. In fact more than half the working group is made up of training providers worldwide. They fully see the need to have a more unified program so that the courses they currently run have a greater training dividend to both the student and the employer. The PYA training program is guidelines only. It in no way takes away the essence of a training provider’s image or brand; it merely sets a minimum level of requirements, including syllabus, trainer qualifications, teaching aids/notes/materials and facilities. So the training provider can still run with its own unique selling point(s)—but within the standards set.

*The tender-driving course seems to be generating a lot of chatter. What is the rationale for including this for interior crew? I can think of plenty of safety reasons, but apparently, some in the industry think that’s over the top.

This was a hot topic during the initial workgroup discussions. However, it was strongly felt by the majority that there should be some “seamanship” knowledge within the training, and a tender course would cover that, with the added bonus of giving the crewmember a beneficial and practical qualification. It has also been included as part of the emphasis on safety training. As individuals progress, there are requirements for advanced courses in sea survival, fire fighting and first aid. Having crew who can operate a tender is a progression of this safety ethos.

Much of the feedback we initially had on this subject was from the smaller-yacht sector, which only employs one or two interior crew in a dual capacity. These yachts expect all crew to be versatile with tasks and duties on the interior, as well as shipboard, it was felt that it was important to make the qualifications fit for both the smaller and larger sector.

*Would obtaining certification cost crew/owners more money? Who would pay? I assume the “student.”

PYA is in no way involved with how much training providers decide to charge for the courses. As with most yacht training, it is crewmembers who pay, although these days it is not uncommon for yachts to offer a training budget. Now similar to the opportunities that the deck and engineering crew have, the interior crewmember can also benefit. Currently, a back-of-the-envelope figure for both engineers and deck crew for a career outlay is about 20k (Euros), whereas the interior training is estimated to be 8k (Euros) in comparison.

*Do the training companies pay you for the curriculum?

No. The training providers pay the PYA for accreditation and the audits under a PYA accreditation agreement. PYA is a not-for-profit association, and the costs charged are to cover the administration fees only. All the work done to date has been on a voluntary basis.

*Why would this benefit the recipient of the certification?

Many reasons. In fact, the majority of those who asked for the scheme came from the interior departments. The crewmember would have a solid and [recognized] career path to follow, which is important for many reasons. One, the certificates issued at each level would hold more credence with a “standard” than one without. Another reason being that the equilibrium amongst crew is often slighted due to the interior crew not having training, there would be better respect and solidarity amongst the whole team. The crewmember would also be encouraged to follow a training path and in turn become better qualified, able and confident to run the most important department on board. This is a benefit for all. In particular, this will benefit owners and guests. In addition, the individual would have qualifications that count towards a career after yachting.

*Some have said this scenario is the first step toward unionization. True? False?

PYA is the professional body for yacht crew. It is run for crew by crew. Enshrined in PYA’s constitution is that it will not, and cannot be a union. Therefore PYA has no desire or intention to unionize yachting. PYA’s mission is to improve professional standards. Period. It is from this agenda that the ICTC program comes.

GUEST is a voluntary program; nothing is mandatory, yet it provides a certification framework for 40 percent of today’s yacht crew where today there is none. PYA believes that the creation of an Industry Standard for Interior Crew Training and Certification is a logical progression for yachting and given time it will become a “unified” standard.