NauticEd Responds to the Global Shortage of Sailing Instructors +Plus Leaning into the Future of Sailing Instruction and Training
Grant Headifen – NauticEd Global Director of Education
I wrote this article to discuss our position in the sailing education arena post-covid and how we apply ourselves to 21st-century thinking with sailing instruction. I felt like it is needed to let those interested take an ‘inside look’ at NauticEd and see where our futuristic planning lies.
Like it or not, the landscape (seascape really) of sailing instruction is changing. So, if you are a sailing school or instructor looking at NauticEd then this is a good place to get to know us and learn how we are reinventing sailing education to ensure we meet the inevitable changing seascape.
First, Who is NauticEd?
NauticEd International Sailing Education was created in 2008, trains students online and on-the-water, and issues sailing competence certifications and global sailing licenses. NauticEd’s training and certification is predicated on ensuring that a student has the required theory-knowledge, on-the-water practical skills, and applied experience to be considered a competent sailor by industry standards. NauticEd’s standards include the American National Standards as created by the US Coast Guard and managed by NASBLA. The American National Standards is a rigorous system for assessing and qualifying competence.
NauticEd’s proprietary eLearning platform and Learning Management System automatically builds a student’s sailing resume based upon their theory-knowledge, on-the-water training, and experience progress – all integrated with sailing school and instructor management and assessment tools. NauticEd also provides schools and instructors with professional grade digital marketing resources to help drive better customer experiences while lowering administrative costs.
To date, NauticEd has served over 250,000 courses and developed a solid network of affiliated practical sailing schools and instructors where NauticEd students can do their practical on-the-water training and skill assessments.
So, who is NauticEd’s customer?
Students are the locus of all NauticEd efforts, putting their trust in us to help them reach their sailing goals through a high-quality eLearning program for knowledge-theory coursework and pointing them in the right direction for credible practical training.
2. Schools and Instructors:
Schools and instructors rely on NauticEd to provide the best learning resources and standards to their students as well as assist in digital marketing efforts to grow their business.
3. Experienced Boaters:
NauticEd is a leading yacht charter and sailing vacation agent, offering boaters the opportunity to bareboat or captain charter vessels worldwide at competitive prices. This supplements NauticEd’s education with a deep end-to-end understanding of the licensing and experience required to competently bareboat charter.
Boating’s Covid-Effect – Instruction Shortage
Sailing instruction, like any other industry, is continuously evolving to meet the changing customer needs and behavior as well as utilize advances in technology. While most changes happen slowly over years, Covid pressed everyone – students and educators – to quickly adapt to new challenges.
One of Covid’s unexpected challenges was that people flocked to outdoor recreation in massive numbers. In boating this equated to over 415,000 first-time boat buyers in 2020, which consequently increased the need for boating safety education. NauticEd, for example, saw eLearning online courses surge while sailing schools and instructors reported historic demand for on-the-water practical courses.
And, like many industries during the pandemic, sailing schools reported that they could not keep up with the increased demand for practical on-the-water instruction. Covid restrictions (and the reasonable hesitancy of some instructors to be exposed) reduced the courses available, creating a significant shortage of quality on-the-water training at a time when record numbers of first-time boaters needed it most!
At this point you’re probably saying “duh!” since these covid effects are well known across many industries. What’s not so well known is the tragic consequence of boater accidents. The USCG reported a 25% increase in 2020 boating accidents, and 77% of the boating fatalities involved those who had no boating safety education. Notably, these statistics include all boaters (power, kayaks, sail, etc…), but they fairly represent the importance of proper boating (especially safety) education.
Anecdotally, we saw an unsurprising (as in covid hindsight’s 2020) increase in YouTubers, social influencers, and discussion boards filled with promoting boaters getting on-the-water without proper instruction – as in “just buy a boat and learn along the way” or “you don’t really need to take a course or get certification.” While it’s often true that a student doesn’t necessarily need a “certification”, it’s haphazard and disingenuous to suggest that boaters do not need proper training (as evidenced by the USCG’s reporting on accidents and fatalities).
In sailing specifically, we also experienced 2 additional effects:
1. An increase in single instructor/school operators. Many own their own boat and elect to teach privately in addition to instructing with larger school programs.
2. An increase in more ‘private’ and personalized instruction. This is partly another ‘duh’ since covid restricted course sizes, but students also responded positively to this renewed focus on THEIR goals and personal needs rather than cookie-cutter approaches.
Leaning into the Future
NauticEd continues to build upon the successes, positive efforts, and partnerships that have been nurtured over the past several years – and we continue to push forward new initiatives to improve and expand boating education.
Like most companies, we can rattle off stats and prognosticate the future of sailing just as well as anyone. Or we just speak to you frankly as sailors do: the “world” changed dramatically over the last 18 months. People – customers, family, friends, coworkers –changed their lifestyles and priorities in ways that we’ll likely not comprehend for years. What’s important is that we learned that every day is a new day filled with unlimited opportunities, challenges, and change. Adapting to continuous and unpredictable change is the new normal.
That every-new-day requires that we focus on the positives and embrace our students’ changing needs and expectations. NauticEd’s 21st Century approach, technical prowess and family of affiliate schools is uniquely suited to meet these needs: quickly, effectively, and scaled for exponential growth.
So, what does that mean for NauticEd 2022?
1. NauticEd’s approach to blend technology with practical on-the-water education – focused on competency – works very well. Hey, do more of what works well, right?!
2. The boating industry stats show a historic increase in new boaters, including a tremendous need for more QUALITY safety and educational opportunities. Expanding sailing education is a call to action and an industry responsibility, and notably with an emphasis on quality since we’re focusing on the safety of students and other boaters.
3. Students responded well with the shift to more personalized and their-goal-focused training. Of course, people like more personalized training and attention! And, that attention creates a more competent sailor, which is a primary NauticEd mission.
4. Technology and eLearning is becoming more prevalent daily. Sailing is challenging in this regard in that by nature, the reward is often disconnecting from tech to enjoy a day on the water. With that in mind, we believe that tech shouldn’t happen to you but for you – empowering students to sail more competently and enjoy MORE time on the water.
2022 Overview | Sailing Instruction
Sailing Schools: sailing schools and instructors continue to be the cornerstone of NauticEd’s training and practical sailing instruction. A distinction of NauticEd affiliate schools is embracing a culture of quality education; a culture that takes great pride in pushing quality over quantity with both students and instructor development.
**NEW** Private Instructor Program: over the past several years of school development, we have worked closely with individual school operators. They’re fantastic, embrace a commitment to quality and personalized instruction, and they have proven extraordinarily successful – success verified by excellent student reviews. Now, NauticEd is formalizing the single-owner operator program as Private Instructor, giving opportunities and low/no cost entry for experienced and qualified sailors to provide quality instruction.
American National Standards: NauticEd continues to promote and strengthen the deployment of USCG’s American National Standards throughout our programs. USCG, ANSI, and NASBLA methodologies are highly effective, and in 2022 we’ll continue to systematically deploy and strengthen these training methodologies throughout our courses.
Systems & Support: recently NauticEd released an upgraded school dashboard as well as several new digital marketing tools. Many more upgrades on the way, including new enhancements for instructors.
eLearning: our eLearning initiatives are worthy of another blog, and notably we’re continuing to expand our capabilities and instructor resources to better serve our students. This includes new courses as well as further development of the learning management systems.
The Private Instructor Program
NauticEd has worked extensively with quality-minded single-owner/instructor operated programs for several years. Not only is the interest growing, but these programs have performed exceptionally well! So much so that NauticEd is formally launching a program called “Private Instructor” to provide resources, structure, and opportunities to experienced and qualified sailors wanting to instruct.
Having proven the concept of competent and quality-minded single owner/instructors through the culture of competence, NauticEd has formally launched a program to create a new generation of competent sailing instructors. We call it our Private Instructor program. As this discussion opened, Private instructors are really single instructor school operators. They are hand-picked individuals who have a passion for sailing and teaching and have competence in sailing and teaching.
What makes this program unique is that by using technology to deliver and monitor competence, these new Instructors can easily start their own sailing instruction program. The Private Instructor program allows competent individuals to be associated with a world-class sailing education body, under a properly formatted and proven structure while allowing them to do what they love – sail and teach others.
We wholeheartedly believe that the overall quality of available training in the industry will go up – “all boats rise with the rising tide.” Given that we can monitor quality at an individual level in real-time and given our experience in this area, we are fully confident in the success of this program.
In essence, NauticEd is helping to address a breakdown in boating safety by providing the necessary structure under the USCG’s American National Standards to those that are wanting to take advantage of an opening in the market – a lack of instructors.
Changing Times – a Market Shift
While changing times are inevitable, changing times bring the opportunity for intelligent change for intelligent operators. The creation of Uber and Lyft forced taxi companies to change from their archaic business model to develop Apps for pickup in the same manner. Now taxi companies emulate that and run more efficiently and customers are happier. Or, the introduction of AirBnB and VRBO added the opportunity for hotels to add services such as high-end restaurants to their offerings and be instantly available on such engines as booking.com. Simply, those who are ready and poised for change will stay in business and run more profitably. Otherwise: Blockbuster, Nokia, and Kodak are classic examples where shame is due on the executives who saw change coming and did not respond.
Personally, I once gave a technology marketing presentation to a restaurant in the late 90’s. His comment at the end of the presentation was “Well, I think the internet is a fad.” A few years later he was out of business.
So what’s changing?
- Students are increasingly turning to eLearning and technology solutions as well as more personalized instruction, which (as noted) Covid likely accelerated. Additionally, quality control practices such as ‘social proofing’ are now not just the norm but expected.
- The USCG, ANSI and NASBLA released the American National Standards – SAIL. This diminishes the need for private label certification as well as allows for more experienced sailors to teach under national standards.
- 21st Century technology is such that many of the self-serving outdated fees, “medallions”, and market restrictions are no longer needed or accepted. Additionally, marketing has changed with digital marketing advances with Google, Bing, etc.. as well as Google MyBusiness – i.e., relying on an association is no longer needed or meaningfully effective.
These 3 points both challenge the industry while also presenting wonderful opportunities for meaningful growth and evolution, all quality driven by the efforts and methodologies of the USCG, ANSI and NASBLA.
NauticEd’s response is to leverage technology with eLearning, systems, and marketing to not only better serve sailing customers with end-to-end services, but also to offer schools and instructors modern professional-grade efficiencies for managing students and their business. The result is higher quality training at lower prices to the student and increased profits to the schools and instructors due to reduced admin and association fees. Most importantly, NauticEd’s approach allows for schools and instructors to spend more quality time with students on-the-water during a course, which is really what the students are paying for with practical programs.
As for the market, NauticEd is introducing Private Instructor to present more opportunities for qualified sailors to instruct as well as better differentiate the type of instruction offered – not on how much is paid (NauticEd does not charge schools/instructors unneeded fees) – but on the merits of the services provided. A unique NauticEd perspective is that we can distribute education to students through multiple channels, allowing for scalable growth and evolution.
Schools have many different formats, but typically they’re year-round programs with multiple boats, multiple instructors, or with instruction as part of other services such as chartering or boat brokerage. A notable distinction of a NauticEd school is they’re a cornerstone of a primary market or region, often doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of quality control, instruction, and marketing.
The distinction is that typical instructors work directly with sailing schools.
In NauticEd’s system, instructors are assigned to a school (or sometimes multiple schools), certify students, and are rated by students in after-course reviews.
Private instructors are single operators, often with their own vessel or teaching on boat owner vessels. Private instructors also often also teach for schools, in which case their personal efforts become value-added for both schools and students.
Admittedly, NauticEd is changing how education is delivered to students by removing many of the outdated industry restrictions, costs, and barriers-to-entry to provide quality education to more students. The result will be more quality on-the-water instruction, more growth and income opportunities for BOTH schools and instructors, and ultimately (primary goal) more competent students. Also, happier students because market innovation will drive choices and more personalized instruction – to the students’ benefit.
Notably, NauticEd is proceeding responsibly and cautiously with the deployment of our programs to preserve the quality of existing and new programs. To that end we are working closely with our affiliate sailing schools to ensure quality, diversity, and innovation across the market spectrum.
Competence as a Philosophy in Sailing Training
NauticEd has spent years developing the reputation of delivering competence. Competence is set as the culture of NauticEd’s institutional philosophy. And, a competency culture is what we instill in all of our instructors – there is only one reason to ‘pass’ someone – and that is students meet the standards of competence and safety.
With NauticEd, students can only gain a Sailing Certificate of Competence once an instructor has deemed them competent via an assessment of practical on-the-water skills using the American National Standard methodologies (the student must also pass the requisite theory courses and log sufficient time in their eLogbook).
With NauticEd, the standard was set by the United States Coast Guard. In 2017, the USCG set up the American National Standards for sailing training and assessment, and they did a brilliant job. They standardized a baseline minimum knowledge and a set of practical skills that a student must be able to demonstrate. Unbeknownst or at least not expressed in words, the USCG established a baseline standard for competence. NauticEd took it a little further by adding to our philosophy “It is a mistake to assume that because I taught you something, that you now know it.” Meaning that when passing a student for a competence level, the student needs to fully understand the material and can demonstrate their competence in their knowledge and skill sets. In our case, demonstration of being a competent sailor is called an assessment of competence which takes about 4-6 hours on-the-water.
Quality of training is paramount with instructor objective judgments of competence. Every company regardless of industry would probably list “delivering quality” as one of the beliefs of their company. It is easy to say – but until quality is adopted as a core value as part of the culture of the company, it is only a statement on the wall. In terms of sailing, NauticEd measures the words “quality training” in terms of competence as a result of our services. When a student demonstrates competence then and only then the training is complete.
At NauticEd, we first indoctrinate new instructors into the culture of competence – instructors must take a 10-hour online Transformational Instructor Training Course wherein we infuse varied training approaches, emotional sensitivity and a focus on delivering competence as a result. The program was specially created for NauticEd and is taught by an Ex-Navy Seal Instructor Trainer and an Ex-Navy Top Gun Instructor Trainer, both extraordinarily experienced in training people how to perform in dynamic situations.
Secondly, we provide instructors the tools needed to make proper objective decisions using modern educational and professional techniques. Primarily, instructors use a Rubrics Evaluation Tool, which is a set of guidelines and series of micro tasks that measure a student’s performance against consistent sets of criteria. The rubrics allow instructors to objectively evaluate the degree to which the student has demonstrated the standards.
Rubrics are shared with the students before they begin training to clearly communicate the training expectations and understand the connection between the training and assessment. After assessment the instructor reviews the performance, and if a student is not meeting standards then the instructor has several remediation options available to offer the student (i.e., a training plan and pathway to achieve competence).
This leads directly to NauticEd’s Instructor Feedback and Quality Assurance Program. Since the inception of NauticEd’s 21st-century sailing education program, after each student has been assessed and graded by an instructor, the student then grades the instructor in several key areas: Competence of teaching, depth of knowledge, friendliness, and boat condition. Additionally, the student is asked if they now feel “confident and competent” to the competence goal they were assigned by the instructor.
The response results are observed DAILY by the NauticEd team. When any score below a 4 out of 5-star rating is received or the student answers “no” to the “do they now feel competent” question, the instructor is contacted and asked for an explanation of the rating. If repeated low ratings are observed, an instructor remediation plan is implemented to timely fix the issue.
As should be expected, NauticEd publishes all reviews publicly on instructor and school profiles. This not only creates a layer of accountability, but gives students the information they need to make informed training and purchase decisions.
NauticEd is a Better Choice for Schools and Instructors
NauticEd is recognized as the leading international and fastest growing North American sailing & boating education company.
A leader in US and International sailing education, NauticEd launched in 2008 with a mission to create safer, more competent sailors. Our state-of-the-art online courses simulate real-life experiences so students can fully understand the theory of sailing before heading out for practical on-the-water training with one of our accredited sailing schools. NauticEd is the only sailing education body recognized by the US Coast Guard and NASBLA as meeting the American National Standards.
- NauticEd’s core mission is to educate and train competent sailors with a comprehensive mix of theory-knowledge, practical on-the-water skills, and experience.
- The only USCG and NASBLA recognized National Education Body for sailing under the American National Standards
- NauticEd’s provided over a quarter million sailing courses to students worldwide.
- Over 25 online sailing courses and a global network of sailing school, instructor and charter affiliates.
- Internationally certification and licensing accepted by charter companies and port authorities worldwide.
- Currently supports over 80,000 boating enthusiasts with courses, experience building tools and charter vacations.
- Fully-integrated Learning Management System. NauticEd’s proprietary LMS offers students end-to-end educational resources – from eLearning to practical instruction to experience logging and boating resumes.
- Over 25 Best in Class online courses utilizing traditional, multimedia approaches, and modern testing techniques to increase competency and retention.
- Practical on-the-water skills training and assessment by qualified instructors. Five primary Certification levels available on merit, multiple skill endorsement opportunities, and internationally accepted certification/licensing available for students to charter worldwide.
- Free boating logbook, sailing resume, and merit badges. Logged experience, online theory-knowledge coursework, and practical training/certification are updated real-time in a boater’s sailing resume.
School & Instructor Benefits:
- No annual fees or additional expenses. Wholesale discounts on direct online course purchases and free courses for management and admin engaged with customers / training.
- Feature-rich account and student management back-end system.
- Free instructor onboarding: no annual or set-up fees, all needed courses / resources are free for instructors.
- Promotional 2-Free online courses (Basic Sail Trim and Navigational Rules) and free online logbook/ resume.
- Commission on student purchases. When prospects and students purchase additional courses, NauticEd tracks and pays commission for incremental online course sales.
- Advanced digital marketing tools, including: prospect tracking and conversion, iFrame free course sign-up, digital marketing guides, and UTM source tracking / reporting.
- Free marketing support, including: listing on NauticEd’s site, email promotions, and blog/podcast opportunities.
NauticEd has positioned itself well as the 21st-century solution to sailing education, building upon years of successful programs while leaning into the future of meeting students’ changing needs. Market shifts and trends have been addressed. Success tools for schools and Instructors alike have been developed. With the introduction of the Private Instructor program, there will be higher quality instruction available.