The title does not reflect what I am thinking now but it is the closest simple description I have found.
Many groups, societies and well ment people make it possible that trainees can join workshops or join the crew onboard to learn the “real things” of the nautical careers they chose. I am picking the example of Phil Wade, of oversize emotional heart and legendary yachting fame, who organised some nine years with another SA yachting friend, a charity for South African unprivileged children, allowing them to learn about yachting and become yacht crew or yachting technicians. Marine Inspirations, inspired in “time to give back to the industry” have since trained both female and male kids and opened for them the possibility of a promising future within the yachting industry. The children are given theoretical training in South Africa, and the ones who better assimilate the learning are taken on a two-week trip to Palma to assist with regattas, visit shipyards and yachting support companies, and sometimes do some sailing too. Other pupils are placed as apprentices onboard or at yachting supplies companies.
So far so good. This organised and recognised ONG can show results with successful cases of youngsters now part of the yachting community, who otherwise would have suffered the traditional limitation to find quality jobs. Beautiful story, but we must now find the first cultural blockage to their further development: the on-the-job training. Of course, someone without experience must start with the basic chores of the trade, but that period must last only the strictly necessary time, and bring the person to the next level, taking more responsibilities and being allowed to make mistakes which are indelible experiences. Assigning higher levels of (surveyed) decision-making is the next step, and letting them fail and learn from it is necessary.
Too many managers accepting trainees keep them away from decisions or machinery operating afraid they could make a dangerous mistake. That does not help in gaining experience; management should limit the mistakes a trainee can make and trust the person to take the proper reaction if things go wrong. If I would have deckhand trainees on a yacht, aiming to get their officer’s ticket, of course I would not go to my cabin letting them take a night watch alone, but instead stay sleeping close by the bridge to check everything now and then and be ready to react on a call for help (I did that during my deliveries). The fear of something going wrong is with us trainers, expressing our insecurity. Our knowledge and experience should give us the peace of mind to see a trainee as another variable in the system that should be monitored but not limited to the new tasks being learned, remembering that making your own mistakes is the best experience. Novel doctors must practice a few years after graduating under (but not limited by) a seasoned doctor’s supervision before they can practice alone.
The method is used in many disciplines, but would not work if the trainees cannot perform under real conditions. In helicopter pilot training, you are sent to fly solo after 30 hours with an instructor. The aerospace industry is highly conscious of safety, but the apparent dangerous learning protocol works. Those two situations can be more dangerous than mistaking fishermen’s lights for shore ones just showing up above the horizon, wrongly tying down a mooring line, or pinpointing a plot in the chart a few miles off. Trainees with special abilities will excel in handling their assigned job situations, and be identified early in their career as an industry promise. These examples can be extrapolated to each and all duties in our nautical (and other) professional worlds. Let us eliminate our fears and give our (needed) followers the opportunities they deserve.
Disclaimer: Global Marine Business Advisors is a registered legal entity and is a network of independent marine industry advisors. In all articles the opinions expressed are those of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of GMBA.