Gaining a Competitive Edge

14 May 2009 By Matt Gomez

If we can learn anything from the global economic crisis, it is this: Business today is not business as usual. So, how do you gain a competitive edge in a tough economy?

Like many land-based professionals, captains and crew can use their downtime to enhance their credentials, increase their certification level and retool for future success through professional training.

Julie Liberatore, manager of student administration at Maritime Professional Training (MPT) in Fort Lauderdale, reports a change in enrollment patterns. “While we have seen fewer brand new crew coming into the school, we have seen an increase in those crew who are already in the industry improving their skills,” she says. “In our career counseling sessions, our students are very interested in what courses will benefit them either by making them more marketable or help them to keep their jobs.”

Not all courses are created equal – in good economic times or bad. Captains and crew looking to beef up their résumés seemingly are gravitating toward certificate programs and courses that will have an immediate impact on salary.

“We have seen an across-the-board increase in the level of course upgrades by certificated crew,” Liberatore says. “Crew are taking advantage of opportunities to increase their licenses and Certificates of Competency (CoCs), as well as adding additional courses that are not mandated by regulatory compliance to make themselves more marketable. We have seen increases in advanced Medical and ARPA courses, as well as Celestial Navigation courses to remove mileage restrictions. Relatively lower-level crew are adding additional certification, such as deckhands and stewardesses getting Tender Operator Certificates or Yacht Masters. Anything considered a CV/résumé builder is very popular.”

But other industry experts say the rush to enroll in professional training courses hasn’t hit the peak one might expect in the current economy, possibly due to yachties feeling a cash crunch.

“Crew still seem to be rather tentative about investing in training,” says Michael French, chief operating officer at International Yacht Training (IYT) in Fort Lauderdale and a frequent contributor. “In principle, they are not flooding in; not in the numbers that will be required to avoid a potential shortage of qualified officers in the medium term.”

A new trend is developing toward professional schools offering maritime coursework online – particularly courses that help fulfill certificate requirements without mandating sea time – which should prove a boon to our far-flung industry. Internet-based professional training courses could make a time-saving alternative to classroom courses.

French says captains and crew often talk about earning more money, but a real factor in getting them to increase their skills is convenience. He says IYT hopes to offer online training courses by the end of this year.

Liberatore says that MPT also is looking into offering online courses through a relationship with the National Sea Training Centre at North West Kent College in Gravesend, UK.

Would you be interested in taking maritime training courses online? Let us know below.