LEARNING to EARN or YEARNING to LEARN
Since the inception of the MCA's yacht qualifications system, the career ladder, at least for deck and engineering crew has been clearly laid out. Many crew plan out the timing of their courses according to the schedule of their boat, their owner or their budget. However very few crew seem to operate a deliberate strategy based on the actual training and the direct benefit to their job performance.
The fact remains that whilst the relevance of some of the MCA's training to the large yacht sector is arguable, several of the MCA's yacht courses relate directly to the work of a crew member and can provide or augment the skills they require on a daily basis. Take the OOW "Nav and Radar" course for example. The course is three weeks long and so for many it is undertaken when necessary, its priority assessed around the cost and inconvenience factor associated with the course. However the direct benefits of this training to an aspiring OOW are significant. The course teaches new concepts not introduced to most students at this stage in their professional development. Radar plotting, use of electronic aids and advanced COLREGS to name but a few. These are skills very rarely taught on board and yet form the basis of safe watchkeeping practice which means the training is directly relevant to the performance or the student as a watchkeeper.
Conversely, much emphasis is placed on the shorter courses. The General Ships Knowledge course is great and interesting but it is also unlikely to make you a better crew member or add a direct skill in the same way as the Nav and Radar course. The GMDSS is another course that is taken early in their training cycle by many and yet does little to enhance the practical skill set of the student.
The point is that training should not be seen as simply a matter of collecting the requisite tickets in order to get the next rung up the ladder. Rather, the practical benefits of the different training courses should be assessed and where there is a clear dividend in terms of skill level or professional development, priority should be given.