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Training vs. Education - Part 2

Ask Amy: Training vs Education Part Two

Mentoring & On-the-Job Training

"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand." - Confucius

As a follow up to last month’s article on training versus education, I wanted to continue on with more information regarding the need for a serious look at mentoring in our industry and how to really make on-the-job training more effective.

Remember in last month’s Ask Amy we summarized that the education & training done in school represent only a fraction of the amount of training you need to be successful in your yachting career and in life.  It also forms the mandatory training component, allowing for regulatory compliance, professional growth and certification. It often includes industry standard written exams and practical assessments to test your competence. The remainder of your professional development comes from on-the-job training preferably through mentoring, which can be formal or informal.

The International Maritime Organization recognizes that the experience and skill you develop whilst serving on the vessel are paramount to your overall competence.

This is an area that needs more attention in the professional yachting industry. Starting a mentoring and formalized on-the-job training program for your crew can improve crew satisfaction and retention as well as strengthen teamwork and leadership throughout the various departments. In our industry, mentoring also has the qualitative benefit of increasing safety and preparedness for advancement. The best part is that it is free.

Mentoring and on-the-job training are the very essence of what makes sea service experience a major component of qualifying for an upgrade in credential. Many crewmembers are struggling to learn what is needed to advance up their career ladder. Years ago most yachts were smaller and had a mate/engineer and a captain. They learned by doing every job on the boat themselves and then moved up to bigger and bigger boats. Today’s superyacht crew are starting out at entry level positions on very large vessels and are expected to move up without some of the hands-on experience their predecessors had. In many cases the only formal training they have access to are the courses they attend to obtain their credentials. These short courses cannot fill the experiential gaps, but the combination of in-school and on-the-job training can and will.

Mentoring programs have a 360 degree benefit to the organization. The mentors improve their leadership skills as well as fine tuning their own knowledge base and the crewmembers improve their knowledge, understanding and proficiency and are more prepared for the in-school and regulatory training and practical assessments that accompany the credential upgrade process. The company or vessel benefits through increases in safety, reduced crew attrition rates, and a happier more qualified team. Everyone benefits from the process.

The first step in starting a mentoring program is to define the objective(s) of the program. Do you want to train your crew in specific skills? Do you want an improved vessel familiarization and orientation training program? Do you want to mentor your entry level crew up to officer positions?

In the commercial segment of the industry, it is common for mentors and officers to complete an IMO Qualified Assessor Course which is typically about two days and trains the assessor in how to best determine if the crewmember is able to properly demonstrate proficiency in a particular skill or knowledge base. On vessels with formal onboard training programs, the Mentors (trainers) may opt for a five day IMO Qualified Trainer/Assessor Course which actually teaches how to develop the training program, learning objectives, assessments and evaluation of effectiveness. With the implementation of the amendments to STCW having a strong practical focus, these classes are not just for classroom trainers anymore.  A formal mentoring program would demonstrate an ethos of continual safety standard improvement onboard and ensuring that crewmembers are properly trained which are major factors in the International Safety Management (ISM) System.

Structure your program to have learning objectives and a method to determine how successful it is through feedback. In the maritime industry, we do not have a lot of superfluous crewmembers so the best way to mentor is by having the captain train the chief mate and the chief mate train the deck officers, the chief engineer trains the engineering officers, the officers train the ratings, the chief steward(ess) trains the stewards(esses), etc. By using this technique everyone’s professional knowledge & skill levels are improved, and a stronger team developed.