Accreditation is the way to go

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Many industries already have established accreditation schemes for maintaining professional standards, so why not the marine industry too? Darren Vaux makes the case for industry accreditation, not least as a means of creating attractive career pathways for new talent.

Most professionals working in a range of industries have to have some form of professional accreditation that is achieved only once certain standards are met and are maintained by a commitment to continuing professional development. Accreditation is often provided by professional institutes or associations. A good example of this in our industry is the Certified Marina Manager (CMM) qualification accredited by the Global Marina Institute through the Marina Industry Association.

There is a strong argument to suggest that marine dealers, marine brokers, marine surveyors, marina managers and marine service professionals should all be covered by industry accreditation programs. The argument is that under-qualified and inexperienced operators will often under-price work and deliver a poor outcome for the boating customer, taking work away from legitimate professionals and giving the industry a bad name and the customer a poor experience.

It is therefore incumbent on the industry to self-regulate the standard of services offered to our customers. To date, this process has been undertaken informally within the various industry associations with membership requiring members to adhere to certain ethical principles of business practice. There is, however, no threshold or test of these principles, nor is there any obligation for members to stay abreast of the latest developments in their legal obligations or changes in practice or technology.

The associations disseminate information in print form and electronically but realistically the statistics prove that less than 40% of electronic news items sent out by the associations are actually opened by their members. There is no measure of the traction of print communications.

Raising the bar

So what is professional accreditation? Essentially, the industry association or institute sets the criteria for qualifications and experience to achieve accreditation. The threshold to achieve accreditation can vary from just meeting the criteria by submission, to the requirement to complete a course and pass an exam to achieve the accreditation.

All professional accreditation systems involve some form of continuing professional development (cpd) whereby accredited professionals are required to achieve a number of ‘cpd’ points each year to maintain their accreditation. The continuing professional development can typically be achieved by undertaking online training or attending recognised conferences or seminars. These are rarely a burden and are a reflection of what every professional who is serious about staying on top of their game would be doing anyway.

Essentially it is about raising the bar, protecting the industry and its customers from unscrupulous operators and, in doing so, enhancing the reputation of the industry in order to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Risk of losing skills

Industry training is continuing to be a challenge for the attraction and retention of our workforce. Ongoing changes to the apprenticeship delivery process are reducing the opportunity for marine specialisation and, as a result, requires industry to step in and fill the void. In some respects, the New Zealand model needs further consideration, in particular the boat building trades, as there is a risk that we will lose the capacity to deliver these specialist skills so important to our domestic industry.

Our local manufacturers/exporters certainly went through tough times with the high Australian dollar. However as this has now fallen some 30%+ since the peak, the export opportunities for the industry remain strong providing we can resource up to meet the demand.

Another of our biggest challenges remains attracting school leavers to our industry. We need to instil confidence that the industry offers rewarding and reasonably secure career development pathways. We have to convince parents and school careers advisers alike that the industry offers a pathway to job satisfaction, security and success.
Interestingly, the process runs full circle. Industries that have accreditation and continuing professional development tend to be more resilient and have more clearly defined career pathways which then in turn makes them more attractive to prospective young people entering the industry.

Our future prosperity and resilience will be determined by the extent to which we raise the professionalism, reputation and client experience of our industry. Professional accreditation is certainly an important component of the pathway to our future success.

This article first appeared in the December/January issues of Marine Business magazine.

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