Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Why mentoring matters

Posted on | December 10, 2012 | No Comments

Bully for the Nautical Institute, which is making a pitch for the value of mentoring, with a new book soon to be launched and a worldwide push through its branches.

We didn’t actually call it that, but during my apprenticeship, like all my compatriots, I was a “mentee”, imbibing the “company way” of doing things correctly, from officers who had learned their business in exactly this fashion.

And of course it didn’t end with the first certificates – whatever rank you subsequently held, you would be mentored by your superiors, and in turn, you would take responsibility for those coming along astern.

It was a good system, even though you sometimes learned how NOT to do things from the occasional hopeless teacher. It mostly came out in the wash and you received the best practical training available.

Mentoring may have a quasi-official status these days, and we must wish the NI the very best with their initiative, but it does operate with a number of serious handicaps which we never suffered.

For start, it is a big ask to expect the officers of a ship to take on a training role when they might be quite exhausted by the job in an intensively run ship.

There are also too many shipping companies which positively seem to discourage any continuity and delight in hiring casual labour – even unto the higher ranks. How is the “company way” of doing things ever to be imparted in such conditions of employment.

And our officers, all those years ago, spoke the same language as their apprentices.

How on earth any mentoring is to be undertaken when a couple of trainees are appointed to a ship where the working language is completely different from their own.

Maybe the mentors just shout a lot, or gesticulate. As with so much that goes in our extraordinary industry, language is the elephant in the room, which fills the blooming place, but which everyone pretends never to notice.

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