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YachtTalk episode 8- A career in yachting

The eighth episode of Heesen’s YachtTalk circles back to the Dutch studio in Oss to discuss the important issue of recruitment and talent retention in yachting. Host Charlotte Kan caught up with Carla Limatola, a board member of Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY), an international network of over 550 yachting personnel that aims to share knowledge and support its members, and Maike Bonke, who heads up human resources at Heesen Yachts, which has over 500 highly skilled craftspeople on the payroll.

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Young professionals

Starting in 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, YPY began with the aim of uniting land-based yachting professionals between the ages of 21 – 40 to share knowledge within the industry. It has since expanded to other yachting hubs, including Monaco, the UK and the Netherlands, amongst others. Part of the offering is the industry research that it carries out.

“One of our goals is to nurture future yachting talent and industry leaders, so we conducted a case study to better understand our position today compared to when we started out in 2008,” says Limatola. “But what we also saw from the numbers is that two typically shipyard oriented countries, Germany and the Netherlands, are widely represented in a male specific, with 76% and 74% respectively, with just 24% and 26% female members making up the remainder.”

Limatola goes on to highlight an anomaly in the US, where 60% of yachting professionals are women. “That’s probably because of the type of job tier that is represented in the US,” she explains. “YPY in the States is more typically brokerage and leisure employment, compared to the shipyard and technical positions in Europe.”

When asked what the industry can do to attract more females, Limatola highlights the need to hire the best person for the job, not because of their gender. That said, she says women need to be aware that if they have the drive to approach a male-oriented career – such as yacht captain – they need to pursue that career path and not be put off by the idea that they’re not considered suitable. “We should be challenging all professionals equally,” she says.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Heesen is proud of the way it nurtures its talent and its employee retention record. When it comes to finding that talent, Bonke says it’s about fitting the right person in the right place. “It’s about understanding someone’s competencies and craftsmanship, but also establishing our Heesen brand in this skilled yet tight labour market. We’re always looking for new employees to add to our organisation, and right now that’s a challenge.”

The skilled labour market is stretched across all industries around the world at present, so being creative in attracting new talent is important. “Apprenticeships are hugely valued by young prospective employees these days,” says Bonke, “because it helps to get them interested in new technology and it’s an investment in knowledge and learning.”

The passion for craftsmanship, the range of materials at their disposal, and the common goal to deliver is what places teamwork at the centre of each Heesen build. “In addition, your workforce are your ambassadors and help to grow the business,” says Bonke. “The fact we provide opportunities for young professionals, that most of our employees work side by side from one location, and that we celebrate the success of all our individuals singles us out as an attractive place of work.”

“Being a sponsor of associations like YPY is another important element of why and how Heesen attracts talent,” adds Limatola. “We welcome many shipyards as our platinum sponsors, and this helps us to promote one another, and even match-make employees who are looking for a career switch, as well as build a certain standard within the industry.”

Heesen Masters and Heesen Professionals are two development programmes for management, project leaders and foremen, which form part of the Heesen Academy. All new Heesen employees also receive full onboard training.

Final question

When asked why they enjoy working for the yachting industry, the panellists responded with the following:

“It’s the best industry that there is!” says Limatola. “The human capital is extremely nice, you can breathe the yachting atmosphere, and you are working with the best product in the world, so what more could you wish for?”

“You’re also working with the best people in the world,” says Bonke. “Their passion, craftsmanship and pride in what they do is why I love the yachting industry.”

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