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Interior Training Ashore

Oct 1st 15
By Hillary Hoffower


“Interior training is highly necessary. From having a good rapport with the guest and your crew to keeping your vessel in tip-top shape, you won’t be able to fulfill at the highest level without proper training,” says Stephanie Wahnish, a former stewardess of six years and now owner of Bikini Boat Wash. 


But just what exactly defines proper training is a question that elicits a ripple of differing opinions among stews, resulting in a debate on the value of interior training on the job versus in the classroom, which certainly hasn’t been helped by the fact that interior training has long been a much less regimented process compared to other departments. 

In last week’s article, we took a look interior training on board; this week, we’ll explore learning ashore.  

Although not required, supplementary interior courses have always been available for stews to improve their skills, of which around 45 percent of poll respondents in a poll say they have taken advantage of.  


Among those courses specifically mentioned were the Wine & Spirit Education (WSET), the six-day Superyacht Interior Course and the five-day Interior Yacht Operations course. 


Yet it wasn’t until 2012 that interior crew were finally able to receive dedicated, certified training with the implementation of the Professional Yachting Association’s (PYA) Guidelines for Unified Excellence in Service Training (GUEST) program, which is offered at 21 operational training providers and aims to provide stews with a progressive education that will help them improve overall onboard service.  


As Jason King, interior department head at International Crew Training (ICT), the first U.S. school to receive accreditation for the GUEST program, puts it, “The interior finally [has] a career path.” 


Joey Meen, director of training and certification at the PYA, stresses the benefits for new interior crew — from having an introduction to the role they’re expected to perform, the lifestyle they will experience and the environment they will work in, which GUEST provides. 


“This includes not only the nitty-gritty facets of the job itself, but also the seamanship aspects rudimentary to the safety on board, including working as a team, communications, taking instructions and personal presentation and behavior,” she says. 


A foundation such as this can prove especially beneficial for interior crew who set foot on the yacht for their first day knowing nothing about the industry, of which there seems to be many. 


“Most of [the] interior have a serious lack of training [in] not only interior tasks, but [in] safety knowledge, too,” comments Chief Stewardess Josie, who has been a stewardess for 10 years and recommends doing courses ashore when on leave. 


Meen also states that it was evident in feedback from captains this past season that there is a shortage of “qualified and experienced crew,” and recounts a story from a captain in which an interior crewmember hired for a seasonal position revealed she’d never done her own washing and ironing — after the owner and his party were already on board. 


One of the goals of GUEST is to correct this lack of skills. 


Says one chief stewardess with five years’ experience of the program, “Great steps to follow, especially when new to the industry,” adding that interior training is finally on its way to equaling other departments in the quest for qualifications thanks to GUEST. 


But don’t be fooled — the GUEST program isn’t just advantageous for newbies. The introduction level may apply to green crew, but the operational level is geared for intermediate crew and the management level tackles professional development. 


Meen states that it covers all types of service and cultural requirements, providing a necessary generic education. This, she says, can help “fill the gaps” of knowledge for those who have been in the industry for a while or have previously had high-end hospitality experience. 


“We have proven cases where a chief stew has been in the industry for some time, but with limited knowledge if they have only experienced certain types of service and cultural needs,” she says. “When those individuals gain employment on yachts that have ‘other service’ requirements, they are completely out of their depths.” 


Yet, some stews think otherwise. Devon T, a stewardess of four years, finds interior training only necessary for those who don’t come from a formal service background, and another stewardess thought GUEST was great, but felt she didn’t learn anything new. 


King points out that, “Maybe fifteen females take the STCW and only four go on to take interior training, because other crew are telling them sea time will teach them. But they get on [the yacht] and there’s no concept; it’s a steep learning curve.” He adds that when many students reach Level 1 of the program, they often say they didn’t know how much detail the job would involve. 


In fact, while around 45 percent of stews who responded to the poll have taken the GUEST program, 27 percent said they don’t plan on it and another 27 percent have never heard of it. To date, PYA has issued more than 4,000 certificates. 


So while many have taken interest in the program, and the benefits are clear, why aren’t all stews looking at it favorably? 


Perhaps it’s because of an impediment created by a lack of support by others in the industry. Meen, who sees this in owners and client representatives, thinks that while many captains, crew managers and charter agents have recognized the necessity of training, it’s still not being supported enough. 


King voices similar concerns. “What’s sad is crew agencies are still pushing [crew] forward just because they have experience.” 


In fact, one chief stewardess who has been a stewardess for eight years and has taken the GUEST program and fire fighting, silver service and medical courses seems to be discouraged by the need for more development and support from senior crew. 


“There isn’t enough support from senior crew and management companies to warrant the time, effort [or] money spent,” she says. “Interior job roles are still often seen as ‘unimportant, [and that] any deckhand can do it and they don’t need qualifications!” 


It’s feasible to think then that if there were a change in attitude by the industry towards the importance of formal interior training, stews would be more inclined to take the program. 


But does lack of overarching support mean interior training, whether through the GUEST track or additional courses, should be discounted? 


Certainly not — in fact, the most dedicated stew should be combining skills learned in the classroom and out at sea. 


“You have to do both,” says King. “You need a solid foundation to provide the silver service to [fit] the guests’ needs. If you have high[ly] important guests on board, it’s too late to learn it then. You need the foundation and skills [in the classroom] to adapt it to the specific training on board.” 


He adds, “You can’t do enough training.”  


Want more? Read:  

Interior Training On Board  

The World of Wine


Tags: Essentials 

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  • I would like to update the article by informing all that Interior Yacht Crew Training has been available since 1994, by the American Yacht Institute. We were actually the first school on the planet to offer these courses.
    And all teachers are actually Certified in various levels of Etiquette, Silver Service, and beyond, by recognized Etiquette schools. I question the actual "credentials" of the certifying body mentioned in the article.
    Posted by Kristen C-S 03/10/2015 17:49:00

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