Is specialized stew training mandatory? No… at least not yet. But I cannot recommend it highly enough!
One of the main reasons I advocate this training is because it will help you to land a job much faster. Of course, you also have to look at it this way: You want to be as prepared as possible so that you are as comfortable as possible when you accept your first position. You wouldn’t take on a job working at a computer all day if you had no idea how to type, would you? Having specialized stew training prior to taking employment on a yacht will give you confidence that you know what you are doing, and that will be reflected in your attitude and demeanor with your fellow crew and guests.
A stew training course, more formally referred to as “interior-crew training” (sounds more professional, no?) can be taken before or after completing your STCW Basic Safety Training; it does not matter. If budget is a concern, I suggest taking your STCW training first, since it’s mandatory. However, as most specialized, interior-crew training courses can be broken down into separate classes taken sporadically, you might consider taking the first day or two of a longer, more comprehensive course. These beginning classes will usually entail an introduction to the yachting industry, so you can feel out how well you take to “this yachting stuff” before you go investing your money in the full five-day+ courses.
There are schools a number of schools offering introductory interior-crew training in various yachting ports around the world:
- Interior Crew/Stew Training Schools in Fort Lauderdale
- Interior Crew/Stew Training Schools in Europe
- Interior Crew/Stew Training Schools in Australia and South Africa
While a number of schools in the United States, Europe, and Australia have been offering programs for interior crew for many years, the course work has never been regulated or mandated the way safety training is. Therefore, there have been variances in the classes given and the way they’re taught. Now, this is not to say that overall, schools have been doing a sub-par job in preparing stews for work. Rather, there simply was no set standard for hospitality aboard megayachts. The good news is, the yachting industry has tried to come together in recent years to develop a formal set of standards, albeit voluntary, to ensure that the high quality of service needed aboard megayachts not only continues, but advances and exceeds expectations.
Interior Crew Training and G.U.E.S.T. Certification
The Professional Yachting Association (PYA), which represents the interests of captains and crew worldwide and champions their interests, played a key role in developing the Interior Crew Training and Certification courses that many of the training schools are now offering. Many more schools are preparing to offer these courses in the latter part of 2013 and beyond.
In fact, PYA collaborated with more than 40 industry professionals, ranging from captains and stews to yacht-training instructors, to develop the Guidelines for Unified Excellence Service Training, a.k.a. G.U.E.S.T. The GUEST initiative, as its name states, attempts to unify the varying approaches in different levels of qualification. From the Introduction Level to Operational Level and even Management Level, classroom instruction is combined with onboard interaction with guests.
Since you won’t have had any experience working aboard a yacht yet, you will need to sign up for the Introduction course modules, a total of five (four courses, plus STCW), with each building upon the lessons learned in the one prior. No sea time is necessary for this program, so you will be receiving instruction alongside plenty of other people in the same situation as you. You will also need to obtain your ENG1 Medical Exam, or its equivalent. Successfully completing all of these requirements will qualify you to receive a PYA-endorsed Yacht Junior Stewardess Certificate of Competence.
- Interior Introduction Course
- Interior Basic Food Service Course
- Wine & Cocktail Introduction Course
- Food Hygiene Course/Catering
- Four (4) Elements STCW Basic Safety Training
I will post the breakdown of each PYA Introduction-Course module and what you will learn soon. Meanwhile, you can learn more at the PYA’s website (see below).
INSIDER TIP: Please be aware that, as of June 2013, the yachting industry is in a transitional stage of adopting the PYA GUEST standards. It could be a few more years before these training guidelines become recognized and accepted industry-wide. On the other hand, it could be much sooner than that as more and more schools become authorized to teach the modules and issue certifications. You will want to keep tabs on what is happening by researching online. Check the training schools’ websites and www.pya.org to follow progress of this initiative.
It’s a time of great change in professional training standards for the yacht-crew industry, especially with regard to interior crew. I personally believe it’s overdue and will be a very positive thing in the long run. In the meantime, just getting any type of entry-level, interior-crew training is your goal.
PYA G.U.E.S.T. Career Path for Stews
One of the biggest benefits of the PYA GUEST initiative is that it provides a formal structure for interior crew who see working on yachts as a long-term career path. This is the part that really excites me, as I think it’s encouraging when embarking upon a journey like this that you have a clear idea of how you might advance in the future… It allows you to set goals for yourself and keep looking to expand your knowledge and skill set.
Here below are PYA interior-crew courses for experienced stews looking to move up quickly through advanced training and certifications. While it’s premature for entry-level stews to consider getting this training from the start, I include this to give you an idea of how a future educational track might look—whether the courses you take are PYA-endorsed or simply teach similar topics. And know the PYA has said it is not necessary to complete all modules in any one level before starting to undertake modules in the next level(s). Please visit training school websites and the PYA’s website for more information about the structure and content of these courses:
- PYA Yacht Interior Intermediate Course
- PYA Wine Intermediate Course
- PYA Cocktail and Spirit Intermediate Course
- PYA Barista Course
- PYA Yacht Interior Management Course
- PYA Wine Advanced Course
- PYA Cocktail and Spirit Advanced Course
Interior Crew Training Centers Offering PYA-Approved G.U.E.S.T. Courses
There are a number of schools and training centers in Fort Lauderdale, Europe, Australia, and South Africa that offer interior-crew training courses; some are aligned with the GUEST program, while others are on their way to being. Please know that since this program is not yet mandatory, nor agreed upon industry-wide, getting any type of introductory stew training is what matters. (Yes, I know I keep saying that.) A little piece of my quirky advice: Trust me, you don’t know what you don’t know—and as a yacht stew, there’s a lot to know!
In other words, don’t be too concerned just yet if certain courses aren’t marked “GUEST-approved,” as since these are introductory classes, it is not going to make a huge difference. There are still programs offered by other schools and trainers that are worth exploring. In fact, there are stand-alone classes offered by multiple training centers. If it is within your budget to enroll in them, they will not only make you more marketable when breaking into the industry, but will also give you more confidence as you waltz into your first yacht job with some extra applicable skills. Furthermore, you can count on the fact that most any introductory course will cover a similar list of topics, and you will likely be able to receive some form of credit toward getting an official GUEST certificate in the future.
Access the list of interior-crew training centers in various hiring ports worldwide at the top of this page.
“The PYA has done an extraordinary job of putting together guidelines for interior training at all levels; this for the purpose of someday becoming mandatory, just like certifications for exterior positions on superyachts are. High standards must be maintained, and with all interior crew having this training, it will help ensure that level of service. In addition, if this training becomes required for specific positions, it will make the hiring process a little less painful knowing the crew has these certifications.”
—Heather Adams, Crew Placement Specialist at Crew Unlimited (now a part of Bluewater Yachting USA)