Our UK Sail Training members are hiring and as part of an initiative to get more people into #SailTrainingCareers, we are sharing stories from Sail Trainers to highlight the benefits of working in this incredibly rewarding sector.
We recently reached out to The Island Trust’s Craig Young to tell us about his experience working in Sail Training. In this two-part interview, Craig reflects on some of his favourite moments working with young and vulnerable people and shares some advice for anybody looking to start a career in the Sail Training sector.
Q. Tell us about how you first got involved with Sail Training, and why you decided to pursue a career in this sector.
“My own journey in Sail Training began as a Trainee myself, with a trip on the Sea Cadet’s brig TS Royalist in 2004. I’m open about the fact that I didn’t want to go, having no interest in the sea, but as a Marine Cadet, my commanding officer at the time awarded me a bursary and was insistent. That voyage didn’t teach me much about sailing, and I came home none the wiser about what a sheet or halyard really was, but I learned so much about myself, my attitude, and the way that on a big traditionally rigged vessel like that, you are part of a machine that can only function if everybody, literally, pulls their weight.
Q. What has been your favourite moment working in Sail Training?
“I have far too many great memories of Sail Training to pick a favourite, but almost without fail, they’re always about the people; the staff, and the trainees on board. Yes, the boats are incredible and sailing them well and fast on a sunny day is great, but the moments that can’t be predicted, with young people really rising to the occasion to say or do something hilarious or show a brilliant side of themselves that they didn’t know existed is what I will remember. For people of all ages, who have been limited somehow in life through socioeconomic factors; learning difficulties; emotional or family trauma; or physical disabilities, to name a few, to then encounter their first dolphin; shooting star; pat on the back from a friend when they were feeling low, they’re the memories that I will remember.
“…the moments that can’t be predicted, with young people really rising to the occasion to say or do something hilarious or show a brilliant side of themselves that they didn’t know existed is what I will remember.”
Q. …And what has been your least favourite moment?
“The law of averages says that the longer you do this, the more things will go wrong. Work in any sector at sea can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and there will be some long days dealing with issues on board, either people related, or fixing broken boats, when friends and family at home may want more of your time […] I also think for me, the greatest downside to Sail Training is that beyond our own small world, there is not much recognition of it as a true maritime career sector.”
Q. Can you tell us about the importance of working with young and vulnerable people?
“To the people taking part, Sail Training is an incredible platform for building confidence, awareness of the world, awareness of those on board, and reassessing their own abilities, strengths and shortcomings. As a Skipper, I facilitate that journey. I plan a voyage that will give all the challenge and fun that it should, but it’s up to the young people to respond and seize the opportunities that we sea staff provide.
Q. How enjoyable do you find working in Sail Training?
“There’s no doubt that working in Sail Training is an enjoyable and immensely fulfilling job. Even if you remove the variety provided by the different groups you work with, the changing weather and seasons means that literally no two days, or weeks, are ever the same. Being in the open air, and being in tune with nature is incredibly important to me. Sail Training is a job that makes you aware of the stars, tides, phases of the moon, the types of wildlife that you’ll see at different times of year, and the key events of each season which gives a routine to the working year that most jobs lack.
“Being at sea in a traditional vessel provides you with an amazing platform for encouraging teamwork and activity without any falsehood or artificial teamwork tasks.”
Being at sea in a traditional vessel provides you with an amazing platform for encouraging teamwork and activity without any falsehood or artificial teamwork tasks. Putting sails up will make us get there faster, and even keeping a lookout on watch to allow your teammates to sleep, empowers the young people in a way that simply being outside in other activities cannot. As sea staff, we get the immense reward ourselves of knowing we made that happen.
Q. Tell us a bit about the responsibilities that come with working in the Sail Training sector.
“I’ve already mentioned the level of responsibility that working in Sail Training brings: there is the opportunity to Skipper from a young age, and take on the personal and legal responsibilities that someone of the same age in perhaps an office-based job would not have to face in the same way. Despite this, there seems to be a lack of recognition that being a Sail Training Skipper brings in the wider maritime world.
Q. Are the skills that you have developed throughout your career transferable to other aspects of your life?
“So many of the skills that you develop on a Sail Training voyage are transferable to other aspects of life. The confidence to make decisions quickly and unsupported from ashore can make you more decisive in leadership situations elsewhere, and the huge array of practical boat maintenance skills learned will give you a bit of a head start in everything from DIY to problem-solving. The tricks and skills of dealing with challenging behaviour can be invaluable in all sorts of situations. Although, the interesting thing about Sail Training is we rarely are able to quantify these skills to something useful by an employer, so while they build you as a person, it’s all about how you can then sell yourself forward for other roles.”
Q. What would be your advice to other people who are thinking of starting a new career in Sail Training?
“I would say two things… I think that as rewarding a job as it is, you must realise that except for very, very few people, it doesn’t last forever and the skills you develop alone are not necessarily enough to achieve the next step or role in life. It’s important to plan ahead and be clear about what you want to get out of your time on board. Further development and MCA qualifications are available, both for Sail Training and other types of vessels […] Take every opportunity for training and development, as it will help you in the current role, and what may come next, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance from those who have been doing it for a while.
Do you want to make a real difference to young people’s lives? A career in Sail Training could be just for you! Check out our Careers page to view the latest UK Sail Training job vacancies and volunteer opportunities, or follow the UK Sail Training Careers page on Facebook.