There was a time, in the not too distant past, when becoming proficient at one’s job meant getting as much on-the-job training as possible to advance up the career ladder. Working as professional yacht crew was no different. During the 1980s, all that was required to become a licensed captain was gathering your sea time, reading a home study course and sitting for your United States Coast Guard exam. With your ‘captain’s ticket’ in hand, you wangled your way onto a small yacht and learned as you went along. Times have changed.
In the mid-90s, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) revised the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for professional mariners. The IMO’s goal was to ‘establish a baseline standard for the training and education of seafarers throughout the world’, and [it] placed an emphasis on quality control and competence-based training.
At that same time, the word ‘megayacht’ entered our lexicon and referred to the penchant of wealthy private yacht owners to build ever larger floating palaces for their enjoyment. Their hired crew was along for the ride. That usually meant a leap of faith that they could transfer the skills learned running a 75-foot motor yacht to their boss’ new 125-foot flagship.
This convergence of new international certification requirements for yacht crew, and the ever increasing size of the boats
they were responsible for safely operating, spurred the establishment and growth of training schools around the world. Today, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) of the United Kingdom has developed the de facto standards for operating large yachts. MCA approved training centers are now found in Europe, North America and Asia.
What was once a job punctuated by sipping rum and cokes at an island bar in the Caribbean on your day off has evolved into a highly regulated career path requiring major expenditures of time, effort and dollars to to meet the licensing and continuing education requirements of the yachting industry. New yacht crew now spend weeks at a time at training centers, and even plan their next vacation around the schedule of the courses needed to upgrade their skills to help qualify them for their next job on an even larger yacht.
Add into this training mix, the Internet. There is a temptation by yacht crew to search YouTube for a video that covers the topic of the training needed to pass the exam for their next level of certification. The problem is whether or not YouTube is a credible source for maritime training. Will that crew member be able to trust the information on YouTube? Anyone can upload a video on YouTube and appear to be an expert.
To determine whether or not an Internet source can be trusted requires due diligence. Can the following questions be answered?:
- Who is the author and is he/she affiliated with a credentialed yacht training facility?
- Is the information being presented free of errors, and can that fact be verified?
- Is the training material up-to-date, and revised to reflect the latest industry regulations?
If the veracity of the sources cannot be verified, using the Internet for professional maritime training may lead to incorrect answers on a certification exam.
Then is there a role for the Internet in crew training? The answer is ‘yes’.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education evaluating online learning, the Internet serves an important role by supporting blended learning. Blended learning combines online training with face-to-face classroom instruction.
In the near future, the most successful crew training will be accomplished by recognized bricks-and-mortar training facilities offering vetted online classes to supplement their classroom curriculum, along with the meaningful use of simulators and hands on training.