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Don't Blame the Millennials!


According to google’s online dictionary, a millennial is “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.” Sounds quite romantic doesn’t it? Young people, full of hope and dreams… Just me? In my experience, however, the term is often used in a derogatory sense. “damn millennials have no work ethic” “millennials are so entitled” “millennials are always on their phone”. You get the picture. As a crew agent of some 12 years, I’m hearing with increased regularity that these so called “millennials” are, quite frankly, “ruining everything” when it comes to the yachting industry. Bit harsh, and a very sweeping generalisation, but as there’s not usually this much smoke without fire, it’s a safe assumption to say that the new younger generation coming into yachting is very, very different to the old salty sea dog crowd.

We can’t deny that the world has changed dramatically in the past 10-20 years, and as such, hasn’t the yacht industry too? Is it really fair that we stay set in our ways and expect the new younger generation of seafarers to adapt to our way of doing things? Do we really want to be the older bunch who start every sentence with “Back in my day…” because I for one fear turning into a grandparent prematurely.  Should we really be blaming the millennials for how they’ve turned out or should we be blaming someone, or something else? Are they not just the product of modern society?

Let’s consider technology. Back in our day (sorry…) we didn’t all carry phones. When we were kids, the rules were “make sure you eat something” and the famous “be home when the streetlights come on”. Oh the freedom we enjoyed! Us northern europeans had the longest summer days ever, summer holidays were 6 long weeks of shenanigans. We were out til all hours and our mums didn’t worry. We all stayed together and as such, formed important bonds and knew instinctively how to look out for each other. Our parents trusted us to come home when told to, and gave us the responsibility to solve our own problems. If anything serious happened we’d go find an adult (usually the nearest parent) to help us, if we couldn’t sort it out ourselves. Our upbringings gave us responsibility, independence, problem solving skills, social skills, teamwork abilities and trust. Our parents relied on us knowing right from wrong and let’s face it, we all broke rules but we learned from our mistakes, or learned to not get caught. Either way we learned new skills….

Kids today don’t get that because they’re not allowed out to play like we were. Parents are frightened for their safety and honestly who can blame them.  Everyone I’ve spoken to remembers there always being one man in the village they were told to steer clear of and not necessarily told why.  Perhaps he was grumpy? Perhaps it was worse. Back in our day (apologies) individuals with paedophile tendencies or violent streaks etc didn’t have easy access to material. Fast forward to now, and anyone can find any depraved, violent, sexual, and/or illegal images or videos on the internet and even engage with other like minded people to encourage that behaviour. How terrifying is that? Technology has enabled the sick people among us to feed their cravings. So again I ask, are you surprised parents are over protective of their children when more bad people are out there? They’re also online so what’s worse, letting your kids take the risk of being snatched outside or letting them talk online to potential groomers and sex offenders?

In the past (see? I’m trying a different approach) a kid’s intro to porno was generally someone stealing a copy of Razzle (other porno mags are available) off their big brother, and taking it down the park to gawk at with their friends (cue awkward pointing and giggling) before invariably getting the crap kicked out of them when they get caught by the aforementioned sibling. Now however, there’s full access available online and what might start out as a quick venture into the adult world could end up god knows where looking at god knows what. And let’s face it, kids know how to delete their browser history faster than you can get your reading glasses out.

So there’s our first issue – are kids not being allowed to grow up as fast as previous generations? Those valuable life skills are not being learned in their peer groups, and perhaps not even at school – there’s no competition or ambition anymore when everyone gets a “participation prize” instead of first, second and third. Now there’s no need to pursue self improvement as everything is praised. How does this set kids up for the real world when they will probably get turned down for a job? Or worse, fired! Could this explain the difference in the work ethic?

Let’s talk specifically about yachting.
Back in, no, hang on…. 10-20 years ago (better?) how did we get our first yacht jobs? Well for many yachting was an accidental occupation. Using those oh so important social skills you’d developed over years of making new friends and talking in real life as oppose to surviving on a diet of textual communication, people would just approach that big yacht and start talking to the crew on board. Dockwalking was something people would do when their backpacking fund had run out, on the look for a bit of extra cash. The industry wasn’t so publicised back then, unless you knew about it and planned to seek work as a seafarer, it was often something stumbled upon. All you needed was a smile – a positive and willing attitude, and a bit of common sense, and that was enough to get hired for a bit of daywork. For many that turned into a season, which then turned into a career. Or not, for others it was just for a period to earn more cash to keep on travelling before heading home to join the “real world” again.

Fast forward to 2019, if you want to get a job on a yacht you need a lot more than a smile. You’ve got to have STCW, ENG1, Security certificate,  Food Hygiene level 2, not to mention Powerboat 2, Personal Watercraft, VHF, maybe a dayskipper… Just to name the minimum. We’re already talking thousands of euros. Do you know many 18 year olds with that sort of cash available? Of course it comes from the bank of Mum and Dad for most of them and as they’re paying, they want to be involved.  So I’m sure some seaschools might possibly take advantage of this fact and squeeze a few extra courses out of them. In-house (i.e. unregulated) deckhand or stewardess courses taught by someone with what credentials exactly? All sold under the promise that once their son/daughter arrives in the Med they’ll be snapped up for work immediately with a massive salary.

So off they go (after paying for a return flight and a month’s accommodation up front) – to be extorted once again by individuals based in the yachting hotspots who promise (the parents) that the kids will be housed in nice accommodation, shown around, introduced to crew agents and helped with their CV etc. More money, more money, more money. Of course, after this big investment the parents want to know what’s going on and be sure their kids are getting the best opportunities so in case they miss out they apply for jobs on their behalf because that’s “helping”… Again, removing the responsibility of doing anything for themselves. Unfortunately, these helicopter parents genuinely believe they’re doing the best possible thing for their offspring and can’t see the damage they’re continuing to inflict.  So anyway, the main difference is back in our day (sorry. Not sorry) is that we didn’t need a financial backer to get a job in yachting. We didn’t have investors we had to report back to. They do now!

The dockwalking goes back to the old stranger-danger of not being allowed out so obviously the kids don’t want to go out and do that. And when they see people claiming on facebook “I’ve never dockwalked” “I always get work through Facebook” why shouldn’t they believe them?  Every springtime we see the usual forums get inundated with selfies and the same blurb “I’m a smiley green stew/deck (delete as applicable) looking for my first yacht job!”. Even though back in our day (not even apologising now) we didn’t have Instagram or facebook, the majority of us use them now. Are we portraying a realistic view of the yacht industry? I don’t think so. Perhaps we need to hashtag a bit more responsibly, when we’re on about #livingmybestlife #yachtcrewgoals #yolo #yachtfamily perhaps we should include #firstdayoffinforever #thisaintthenorm #usuallyscrubbingtoilets?

In a world where kids are shown they can make money and have an actual career from being Instagram influencers or from their own youtube channels, what’s the motivation to do physical labour? Their idols are the Kardashians and Jenners (note: Kylie now the youngest ever “self made” billionaire). Case in point, I was recently contacted by a youtube vlogger who asked me if I knew of any yachts who’d like to hire him as a deckhand plus he could get them more charters via his channel. He was really that confident that the super wealthy would be watching his deckhand videos.

So when you look at all these outside influences: society, technology, parents, schools, etc., I ask you again, is it really their fault? I’m not convinced it is, so perhaps we need to work on how we can adapt to accommodate, mentor and nurture the new generation instead of complaining about them. We shouldn’t rant about problems unless we’re going to work on a solution (in my opinion) and in the meantime, please, don’t blame the Millennials.

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