Towmasters has an interesting post (and comments) Hawsepipers: Why They’re Needed Now More Than Ever.
I agree with towmaster: It is vital that the path to a license remain reasonably achievable for qualified unlicensed mariners. The system should however be able to block the worse of the worse.
My observations are, the mates I get from the hawsepipe are both the best, and the worse. Of the best mates a disproportional large percentage of them came up though the hawepipe. On the other hand, the very worse officers I've had, almost all of them were haswepipers. Many of the mates from the academy fall in the middle range, neither outstanding nor incompetent.
Another observation, of the mates from the academies I sailed with, the ones who had good "sea sense", and were competent both in the wheel house and on deck, most had some experience in the towing industry. Of the hawsepipers, the worse of the worse, all had deep-sea backgrounds and had obtained licenses relatively late in their careers.
Bottom line, attitude is more important then background. Good judgment, experience and a willingness to work hard are what makes a good mate.