Here at bluewater we have now run over 20 Operational and 20 Management level courses since implementation. The structure and content of these courses and their relevance to the Yachting industry is unravelling nicely. With the benefit of hindsight the reason for introduction of these courses is also becoming apparent. 2013 and the start to this year have not been good for the shipping (or indeed airline) industry and our lengthy discussions and analysis of human behaviour has been a revelation to many.
Initially both courses were greeted with scepticism and cries of “more cost” to the ever increasing bill of gaining qualifications. Recent feedback from students at both levels has been encouraging as the courses have progressed. Bearing in mind the “need” for such training came from the yachting industry itself and manifested through STCW 10, it has proven to be just and correct. Education in this area has been well received and has been a product of 2 key elements. Firstly the students have acceded to the fact that as managers and leaders in potentially dangerous environments - no formal Leadership Training was provided in the qualification structure and there is a training need. Secondly, we at bluewater have worked hard to make these courses both more relevant and interesting and they are still evolving. This is testament to the fact that students and instructors never stop learning. I have had the benefit of teaching these subjects in other Maritime Sectors for many years so I have had a chance to obtain a balanced view on both the progress and relevance.
... More than 80% of all accidents at sea are attributed to the Human Element. The MCA team have raised global awareness of this phenomenon and given some very practical advice to ships Captains and operators on how to mitigate the risks ...”
Sir Alan Massey - UK MCA Chief Executive
For the first time in a long time for some, students are being “educated” rather than trained for a specific task. This process of “experiential learning” coupled with some nice practical exercises and healthy discussion is now well received and participation is instinctive. Since its inception the syllabus has been expanded and modified and concentrates on the 8 areas of human behaviour below that have significantly contributed to accidents or failure to comply with mandatory regulations;
• Making sense of things
• Taking risks
• Making decisions
• Making mistakes
• Getting tired and stressed
• Learning and developing
• Working with others
• Communicating with others
In their infancy both courses have not been without criticism and have not been perfect. For example the overlaps between Operational and Management learning outcomes (used to be called syllabus headings) is too great and many students due to their career paths (and MCA rules) ended up taking both courses one week after another. This resulted in feedback of “they are both the same” which was true to some extent but notably some with the most to say were missing the point entirely - that the way in which higher level managers and leaders solve the same problems and deal with similar issues is the “raison d etre.” A vast amount of the early course compilation was the fine work of Ken Dales and he did an amazing job to scope the task and analyse the “training needs”.
Where appropriate and in the true spirit of bluewater’s ISO 9001 requirements, feedback has been acted upon and lessons learned by the instructors too. We have been blessed with the addition of some instructors with not only impressive communication skills but with backgrounds and real life experiences which set the scene for many a lively lesson and discussion. One of the instructors is the Senior Cabin Services Manager for a major long haul airline. Her background, training and experiences are very relevant where professionals operate in confined spaces, with strict rules, regulations and safety procedures. Other instructors have experience at Sea, in peace and war, in psychometric testing, personnel selection and vast experience with the UK Police force and Fire Service.
To date the courses have utilised best practice and we have compiled over 30 personal ailments that we as mangers and leaders may have to make allowances for in our teams - ranging from Asperger’s syndrome to Narcolepsy, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Depression to name but a few. We have also compiled a huge list of questions you may have wished you had asked when interviewing for new recruits. Role play is enjoyed by many for interviewing techniques and performance appraisal modules.
The process of experiential learning also involves some fun and games. Sets of plastic construction kits provide not only problem solving tasks but cleverly involve team-work, communication, working with others and probably most important of all briefing and de-briefing. These vary in complexity and at the Management level these exercises are facilitated, analysed and de-briefed by the students themselves. Presentations are given, short self-chosen (but relevant to yachting) in the case of the Operational level students and longer more involved presentations on Yacht accidents analysis are undertaken in the higher level courses.
Learning can be fun, and it is true that the more students put in - the more they get out of the course. There is an element of competition for the practical exercises and it is often difficult task to convince a class of Yacht Captains that it’s not the winning that matters but the manner of how the task is planned and completed.
I invite the more unconvinced students at the end of each course to look in the mirror and take a fresh look at themselves as individuals and perhaps look at others differently as a result of our endeavours. Perhaps more importantly I invite them to stop and think about how others may view them in the workplace and how they manage and lead teams. Teamwork of course is a major feature of the course, team hugs are not uncommon and students, being yacht crew, are fiercely competitive yet proud and discreet about their work. Their enthusiasm is to be applauded – they are keen to get things right and rarely disappoint.
Here at bluewater we believe we are getting closer to a very good course and strive to be better than our competitors. Biased opinion would suggest that we are succeeding and we will continue to listen and improve ourselves. Hopefully we will then reach a point where the following legendary statement is true:
“We trained very hard, but every time we formed into teams – we would be re-organised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to treat each new situation by re-organising. This creates the illusion of progress, whilst actually causing Confusion, Inefficiency and De-moralisation”. (Petronius Arbiter 410 BC?). Have we got this right one thousand six hundred and five years later? - discuss.
The way in which we train students is an exciting prospect for the future. We already have interactive whiteboards and work has just started to develop “blended learning” for the new Engineering Structure. There are ambitious plans to enable students to learn on-board, on-line in their own time and build qualifications by the use of Maritime Skills Qualifications (MSQ’s) which will lead up to SQA examinations. This route will enable students to progress faster with less sea time than the traditional routes. As far as HELM is concerned, I believe we are very much on track and heading in the right direction. As a result of feedback there are also plans to develop skills in areas of negotiation, finance, delegation and “train the trainer” packages for yachts.