Superyacht Recruitment Agents

As the 2021 Mediterranean season ramps up, we listen to some advice from our recruitment agency friends on how best to land your next job onboard or even how to manage the transition ashore after a career on the open seas

Like lanternfish in the murky depths, recruitment agents have a way of separating the seagrass to get a glimpse of what lies ahead. It’s in this market sector where the rippling effects of hire & fire, energetic activity or
industry slumps are netted and noted to give an idea of what’s really going on beneath the glistening surface. And here is what our experts have to say about the coming year ahead.

Niske Haremaker of MYyachtcrew based in Holland is in buoyant mood and says, “Based on what I hear I am expecting a very busy Med season where a lot of charter clients will charter a bit extra and owners will want to use their yachts a lot: Kind of to catch up on last year’s miss. Regular testing will hopefully relax the restrictions in popular yacht hubs.” But she thinks the yachtie events and shows will and should wait another year. “Even though I miss these immensely. To me it sounds like a far off thing from the current locked down Netherlands.”

Searchlight Crew is looking forward to a brighter year ahead with more movement of crew, job openings as more new builds are released. Says Searchlight’s Tara Broomhead, “Hopefully the EU gets a move on with the vaccination schemes so more crew are protected and can therefore join quicker and not have problems with travel and quarantines.” Chloé Collet at YPI Crew
says this year has kicked off well with activity across the board. Sam Thompson warns that we should expect more of the same uncertainty as last year, “The owners are still hiring but delaying and being more localised in their hiring patterns.”

“I’m expecting to see big surges in recruitment within the shore based yachting industry in response to a surge in spend in the market over the remainder of 2021,” says James Ward, CEO of Marine Resources. He adds, ‘I think there will be skill shortages in technical roles like Boat Building, Design and Engineering until businesses become more competitive in the salaries that they pay against competing industries. But overall a lot of opportunity for people looking for a new job.”

Tara Broomhead at Searchlight Crew and Chloé Collet at YPI Crew both notice that current recruitment placements are very much right-time, right-place focused, so luck plays a role in that longed-for leap up the metaphoric mast. Says Tara, “Yachts want crew that are located close to the boat or in the region/ country for ease of employment and travel restrictions.”

Adds Chloé, “So if you’re surfing in Costa Rica, make sure you tell us. That just might be where you land your next job!” Zoom interviews also spiked, for obvious reasons. Sam Thompson of JMS Careers has noticed that people are less willing to commit to long term employment contracts and crew are staying put in positions, concerned for future employment.

Effrem Leigh’s latest trend is personal; he recently relaunched his website and services so that now will act as a jobs board although he will continue to offer agency services and career advice to chefs.

“Sadly,” he says, “Many chefs lost their jobs due to Covid. I also think that social media will continue to play a key role in recruitment. Captains will allow their chefs, for example, to post adverts for sous or temps online. Just watch out for data protection registration, be careful of job scams and never pay an agency to help you find a job, it’s against EU law,” he warns.

James Ward is CEO of land-based jobs recruitment agency Marine Resources. The company recruits across multiple marine sectors, including design, engineering, technical, marinas, build and refit, sales and marketing, and executives. He sees companies hiring more opportunistically instead of reactively filling empty posts. He says, “Businesses are planning ahead more on the roles that they are looking for, and there’s an appetite for getting the best talent possible in the business and not being restricted by location. Clearly remote working works and it’s made businesses much more open minded in hiring from further away or even internationally where they wouldn’t have done before.”

Remote working is one thing, but what about the ever sought after rotational job? Is it on the rise and within your grasp at last? Niske is positive: ‘I believe that rotation is the way forward for all senior/HOD positions onboard. This is the best way to keep your crew happy and provide them with a good work/life balance especially on busy charter yachts or yachts with owners who live onboard.”

But Tara at Searchlight is less optimistic, “To be honest I don’t think rotation positions are on the increase, not that I’ve seen.

Crew want more rotation but unfortunately as in previous years owners aren’t so happy to pay for two crew members. Especially if both crew member prefers to be paid twelve months of the year and aren’t willing to take pay cuts. In captains, engineer, chef positions it’s more common and in the higher levels but not for the standard crew such as stewardess and deckhand.”

Covid of course has not helped to make the case for more rotating posts and Effrem says it has prompted some chefs to take permanent positions. “It’s the older and more experienced chefs who tend to want rotation and it can help to keep a good chef on board.” “Rotation is being considered more and more to maintain longevity onboard and that’s across the board,” says Chloé Collet, “but, last year some yachts removed rotation, to keep costs down because of uncertainty about how much the yacht would be used. Rotation is usually only for senior roles.”

Good news. Yachting is still netting high numbers of candidates ready to reach the first rung on the yachting ladder. “Greenies
are definitely up,” says Niske. “Up upper uppest! And it’s greenies from all over the world, especially South African.” Niske also has a lot of applications from cruise ship and aviation crew wanting to break into the yachting industry. Another reason behind this surge in applicants she reckons could be down to the TV series, ‘Below Deck’. “I am constantly asked if the show is based on true events!”

Chloé has also seen a huge soar in ‘Green’ CVs with a 13% rise in crew registration last year. Tara is carefully optimistic saying new applications have started well this year but travel restrictions won’t make it easy for crew arriving into Europe.

For land-based roles in the marine industry James Ward advises crew to really understand the skillset that is relevant to the shore based industry. He says, “Take some time to re-design your CV. Invest in your training and development for shore side positions. Coming shore side is essentially a career change and that takes a bit of time to really understand what you’re going to do. Accept that you might have to take one step back before you take two steps forward.”

Niske speaks for most of his confrères regarding the impact of Brexit on crew and their jobs, “Where there is a will there is a way. And we all need to get ourselves educated.”

Says Tara, “Brexit will be a stumbling block for some but as long as you stick to the rules of 90 days in the EU and then leave for 90 days. Or obtain a Schengen visa to work. Some crew in France, for example, have applied for the carte de séjour.”

“We’re waiting to see the implications,” says Chloé. “Regulations are different depending on where you enter the EU. Our advice to crew is stay informed and be sure to keep your personal position in order.” Sam Thompson sees Brexit issues developing once people stop focusing on Covid19. “The lack of new crew from other countries means people are still being hired from the UK. I think crew are still unsure of what they are required to do with regards to getting visas to enter the EU and work, also what to do once here.”

“Crew skill requirements just got even more specific,” says Niske at MYyachtcrew. “I love it when I place a job opening that reads ‘MYyachtcrew is currently after a deckhand/kite instructor/drone pilot with their YachtMaster’, and then actually get amazing applications for a strong shortlist to put forward and nail it!” But we’re thinking that, like the rain in Spain, ‘that hardly ever happens’. She adds, “Nurses and stew/masseuses are a rare but very sought after breed. These are definitely extra skills that will open doors that stay closed for others.”

‘Steady as she goes’might well be the mantra for the coming months. If you’re in a job, keep it; if you want a job, luck-up and look around you; the lanternfish have spotlights on some good opportunities. And extend your skill base as wide and weirdly as possible!