Seafarers praise steward-department upgrading classes at Paul Hall Center (12/21)

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UpgradersWith the help of the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Md., a number of steward-department Seafarers have been participating in an upgrading program with the goal of learning valuable skills that will help them advance their careers at sea.

The upgraders, who have been taking various classes at the Center, are looking forward to using their new skills and putting them to work aboard ship.


With added emphasis being placed on food safety and sanitation by ship-operating companies, as well as new developments in food processing and preparation, there’s no better time to upgrade, according to Executive Chef John Hetmanski.

Hetmanski, one of the instructors at Piney Point, pointed out the changing times have significantly affected steward departments.


“All the companies have become more conscious of the nutrition and food safety for their crews,” said Hetmanski. “Healthy crews and what they eat and how safe the galleys are have taken the front page. The steward department has a direct impact on that.”


Seafarer Richard Wyeth, a 13-year SIU member and a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, has spent most of his professional life in the galley and thought he knew all he needed to know to be a successful member of the steward department. His outlook changed when he started upgrading in Piney Point.


“Because of my experience, I didn’t think I was going to learn very much (at the school), but I was really surprised to find out that I still had a lot to learn,” said Wyeth. “Things that I thought I knew have changed. You need to be caught up on things; it’s really important.”


Eric ClotterIn addition to the increased wages potentially to be made from upgrading, Wyeth recognizes the significance of having a well-trained steward department.


“A lot of times we don’t get the credit, but I think we’re one of the most important departments on the ship,” Wyeth said, pointing out that having a clean galley and good, healthy meals can have a huge impact on morale.


Perhaps the most important benefit of the program for Wyeth is how the skills he’s learned affect his fellow Seafarers.


“The more I learn here, the more I can pass on to the younger people on the ship,” said Wyeth. “Even though I’ve been sailing a long time, I still enjoy learning. I’d encourage everyone to come down [to Piney Point] and upgrade.”


Other Seafarers who recently upgraded also recommended the various steward-department curricula to fellow mariners.


Chief Cook Eric Clotter, who’s working towards becoming a chief steward, values the things he’s learned from his instructors.

“They’re teaching me to become a better cook, and the things I’ve learned, I’ll be taking them with me on the ship,” he said. “I’m looking forward to moving on to the next level.”


Michael CorreaSA Michael Correa, whose passion for cooking led him to the steward department, stated, “You get the chance to learn and to cook. I’m starting at the bottom and learning it all.”


When asked if he would recommend upgrading to fellow mariners, Correa was fully supportive.

“If you’re working on a ship, you’ve got to move up,” Correa said.


Clotter added that upgrading is a source of pride, in addition to being a way to move forward with his career.


“The program can help anybody,” said Clotter. “It’s helping me. I’m so proud of myself. I’ve got friends and family that look up to me and what I’m doing. This is like a new home to me. I’m so blessed to be here.”


There is no shortage of opportunities for advancement in the steward department at the Paul Hall Center. Upgrading classes include Galley Operations, Advanced Galley Operations, Certified Chief Cook, and a 12-week Certified Chief Steward class.


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