Interior Training Ashore

1 October 2015 By Hillary Hoffower

“Interior training is highly necessary. From having a goodrapport 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,” saysStephanie Wahnish, a former stewardess of sixyears and now owner of Bikini Boat Wash.

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

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

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

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

Yet it wasn’t until 2012 that interior crew were finallyable to receive dedicated, certified training with the implementation of the ProfessionalYachting Association’s (PYA) Guidelines for Unified Excellence in ServiceTraining (GUEST) program, which is offered at 21 operational training providersand aims to provide stews with a progressive education that will help themimprove overall onboard service.

As Jason King, interior department head at InternationalCrew Training (ICT), the first U.S. school to receive accreditation for theGUEST 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 tothe role they’re expected to perform, the lifestyle they will experience andthe environment they will work in, which GUEST provides.

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

A foundation such as this can prove especially beneficial forinterior crew who set foot on the yacht for their first day knowing nothing aboutthe 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 ChiefStewardess Josie, who has been a stewardess for 10 years and recommends doing coursesashore when on leave.

Meen also states that it was evident in feedback fromcaptains this past season that there is a shortage of “qualified andexperienced crew,” and recounts a story from a captain in which an interiorcrewmember hired for a seasonal position revealed she’d never done her ownwashing 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 theprogram, “Great steps to follow, especially when new to the industry,” addingthat interior training is finally on its way to equaling other departments inthe quest for qualifications thanks to GUEST.

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

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

“We have proven cases where a chief stew has been in theindustry for some time, but with limited knowledge if they have onlyexperienced certain types of service and cultural needs,” she says. “When thoseindividuals 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 offour years, finds interior training only necessary for those who don’t comefrom a formal service background, and another stewardess thought GUEST wasgreat, but felt she didn’t learn anything new.

King points out that, “Maybe fifteen females take the STCWand only four go on to take interior training, because other crew are tellingthem sea time will teach them. But they get on [the yacht] and there’s noconcept; it’s a steep learning curve.” He adds that when many students reach Level1 of the program, they often say they didn’t know how much detail the job wouldinvolve.

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

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

Perhaps it’s because of an impediment created by a lack ofsupport by others in the industry. Meen, who sees this in owners and clientrepresentatives, thinks that while many captains, crew managers and charteragents have recognized the necessity of training, it’s still not beingsupported enough.

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

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

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

It’s feasible to think then that if there were a change inattitude 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 becombining skills learned in the classroom and out at sea.

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

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