Yachting needs a plan to recruit career-minded crew

Apr 14, 2014 by Guest Writer

The recent Triton survey concerning the appointment decisions made by yacht captains when selecting crew was interesting yet probably expected. [“Captains prefer to hire career-minded crew,” March issue, page C1]



Although some captains supported the appointment of “transient” crew because of the yacht program or for economic reasons, most preferred to appoint crew that were career oriented and seeking advancement within the industry.



Captains preferred career-minded candidates and did not want to “waste time” on transient crew.

“I want to spend my resources on long-term professional crew that will benefit the industry as a whole and my program in particular,” said one captain.



A number of captains were critical of the way that the industry had seemed to attract transient “backpackers” who just wanted to “make fast money and travel for free”.



Some lamented the case that there were “no new young boaters”.

The dearth of young people seeking a career path in the industry has been evident for some time, and concurrently there has been a rise in non-career minded transient young people seeking a placement in the industry.



At a gathering of captains at The Triton’s monthly From the Bridge luncheon late in 2013, this was a topic of major importance and discussion. Captains voiced their concerns not just about the declining quality in the field of candidates but of the attitudes and behaviors of those candidates that had passed through the basic training courses and were considered “yacht ready”.



Captains have been voicing their concerns for some time about the declining standards of applicants seeking careers in yachting. This discussion certainly agrees with some of the comments made by captains at the most recent Triton luncheon as well. [“It’s not easy being green, but captains give crew a chance,” March issue, page A1.]



Perhaps the industry needs to look critically at the recruitment processes for attracting people into the industry. Perhaps the industry also needs to ask itself who is responsible for the recruitment strategy and the messages being promulgated into the recruitment market. What is the strategy for attracting people into the industry? Is there a strategy?



It would seem that historically there were more young people with a “boating” background who found their way into the yachting industry. Young people from a range of predominantly western countries ended up in yachting, in some cases with a clear plan, in others by sheer luck.



It also seemed that there was a reasonable balance between supply and demand for crew. These young people have grown up and have now become the captains and senior crew members of today’s yachts, developed other yachting-related careers, or have moved on from the industry.



In the past 10 years or so we have witnessed the “explosion” of yachts being built and requiring crew. Numbers of yachts have doubled along with yachts getting larger and requiring more crew.



The point of this discussion is to highlight the fact that the industry has done little to correct the image that emerged over the recent years that working on a yacht is glamorous, fun, open to those that want to just “experience and experiment” while providing a vehicle to see the world and get paid a good wage.

Some captains would go so far to say that some industry training providers have also capitalized on this image to grow their businesses and “graduate” candidates with little interest in a career in the industry. The emergence of a reality TV program sensationalizing the lifestyle of yacht crew has not helped counter the perceptions of how yacht crew work and behave.



I would say that the yachting industry has been less than proactive in getting its message out concerning career choices and the quality of potential candidates owners and captains expect. Rather than allowing others to determine its recruitment expectations, the yachting industry, through its representative organizations, would be well advised to develop a global recruitment strategy outlining the career pathways available within the industry and highlighting the long-term career benefits to those seeking this avenue.



The issue concerning the attracting of quality candidates to the yachting industry has been ongoing for some time and has been identified as a concern. If nothing is done about the current situation, then we can expect to experience more of the same.



It is my view that we all have a role to play in expecting excellence and best practices from all employed within the yachting industry. There is no room for any compromise or mediocre approach when recruitment and selection of crew is concerned. Excellence begins with attracting the right people into the industry.



The Yacht Captains Association will proactively represent its member captains and work with other industry associations and organizations seeking to reposition the global recruitment strategies targeting those wishing to develop long-term career opportunities and pathways in the global yachting industry.


Capt. Ian Bone has a previous career in leadership and organizational consulting and is involved with a small group of yacht captains researching the viability of a Yacht Captains Association. Read more on his blog at yachtingleadership.wordpress.com. Comments are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.