Q&A with crew agent Lauren Stiles

Published 11/06/2020

In the second of our COVID employment updates, Chris Frisby, UKSA Director of Operations catches up with Lauren Stiles, UKSA Alumni. Following completing our Superyacht Crew Training course back in 2007 Lauren spent 5 years working on Superyachts, before returning to UKSA where she worked as a Careers Advisor and latterly running our Cadetship and Industry Guidance Department. Since 2018 Lauren has been working for Wilsonhalligan as a Crew Agent in their Deck Department, where she has maintained her link with UKSA regularly visiting to interview our students.

The superyacht recruitment industry has probably been through its quietest period in decades due to the COVID-19 pandemic! How are things now?

We have certainly been quieter than usual, especially for the time of year, at the start of what would have been the beginning of the Med season. Over the last couple of weeks we have definitely started to see some new positions come through and speaking with Captains on-board some are now planning for what is left of the season, looking at itineraries with the owners of where they could cruise safely.

During the quieter time it was also great to be able to catch-up with so many candidates we hadn’t spoken to in a while, we also met lots of new candidates via video chats and put on events such as CV workshops, so we have certainly been keeping busy despite less jobs than usual.

We have also seen a rise in the number of temporary positions on-board, in some cases this may have been due to crew on leave who were unable to travel back to the yacht so the vessel needed crew in country to fill the positions.

Over the past few months many businesses have had to rethink the way they operate, how has Wilsonhalligan adapted in the new normal?

I think working in recruitment in an international environment we have always tried to make the most of the technology available to us, even before the pandemic, we regularly work with clients who request video interviews. With us being based in the UK we are used to speaking with candidates over the phone and on video calls so this hasn’t changed for us too much.

This year I have certainly missed visiting the yachting hubs for face to face interviews in places such as Antibes and Barcelona as we usually do, however I don’t think it has affected our communications. The main change has been the Wilsonhalligan team working from home, very much missing everyone in the office but enjoying seeing their dogs and cats in the background of video meetings! Also enjoying my 20 second commute to the dining table, this is much more like my old yacht commute, up the crew mess stairs!

It’s really important to us to be available to speak with candidates and crew on-board so we always try to use the best platforms for this. I think with all the technology and fast broadband speed regularly available to us we have not suffered any technical hitches.

Due to the current travel restrictions and government advice, UKSA have been advising our recent graduates not to try to travel to Europe to find work, what would be your advice to crew looking for their first positions at this time?

Although I would usually encourage candidates new to the industry to base themselves in one of the yachting hubs, this year is certainly different. Hopefully things will continue to improve and get busier with more yachts seeing guests on-board again and therefore more jobs, but in the meantime I would agree for new crew it may be best to be based at home. Some yachts are implementing a 2 week quarantine period in country before joining so once flights start to become more regularly available I don’t think it will make too much difference where candidates are based. The yachts we work with really are based all over the world, not exclusively in Antibes and Palma, so the chances of you being in the exact country the yacht is are small anyway. One of the main reasons to be based in one of the yachting hubs would be the opportunity of possible day work which has of course been very limited during this time.

What are your predictions for the remainder of the 2020 summer season and the future of recruitment in the superyacht industry?

At the moment from chatting to senior crew on-board and the new roles we have in I really hope the world continues to recover from this and that we will see an albeit very belated Med season. We are seeing a steady increase in new roles where Captains are starting to recruit ready for operations. I also think there will be much busier seasons to come where lots of charters and guest trips have been delayed until the winter season or even next year.

What’s the best way for our graduates to contact you?

They can email me at [email protected] or follow me on social media for the latest industry news and new positions.

About Wilsonhalligan

Wilsonhalligan offer the latest yacht and shore-based jobs, for a variety of roles including Captains, Officers, Deckhands, Interior, Engineers, ETO’s, Chefs and Household Staff.  Offering a personalised recruitment service, wilsonhalligan tailors their approach to clients’ needs and always ensures the highest calibre of candidates are matched with the most suitable position.