The need for a well-defined, carefully researched Skills Strategy was highlighted in the Maritime Growth Study. The skills issues facing the UK maritime sector should be identified and prioritised by assessing the current and future need for wider skills and qualifications across the sector as a whole, said the study, and the Skills Strategy should be developed with focused objectives for addressing those concerns.
The Skills Strategy will be formalised soon, and a good deal of work is already in hand or completed. This has included an in-depth survey of Maritime UK members to pinpoint their problems and priorities.
It is a paradox that the more the maritime sector invests in technology, the more it relies on its people, says Iain Mackinnon, secretary of the Maritime Skills Alliance.
“Sophisticated technology needs sophisticated people to use it,” he says. “We are long past the point where simply filling a vacancy was enough; we need to shift our attention from quantity to quality. To compete effectively, we need talented people – so we need to review how we recruit our share of the next generation’s talent as they start their careers.
“We need to look, too, at those who move mid-career, and we need to be sure that the talented people we recruit stay, and contribute to the fullest extent of their ability.”
This is what the Skills Strategy is all about – setting the direction of travel for a highly sophisticated industry which is competing on the ‘added value’ created by talented people, and identifying what else must be done to succeed in that endeavour.
“We were delighted that the well-researched proposal from Maritime UK members Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping to double the funding for Merchant Navy cadets has now won approval from the Department for Transport,” says Mr Mackinnon. “We have a strong and expanding range of apprenticeships across the sector, which are an important means by which companies can attract, and properly train, home-grown talent instead of relying on overseas labour.
“We have new careers pages on our website, covering the whole of the sector, and an active Careers Forum working to get the word out to potential new recruits. And we have just launched our Women in Maritime Taskforce to address the very low numbers of women in so many parts of the sector, and the difficulties which too many of them face.”
Traditionally, many shore-based maritime jobs were taken up by former seafarers coming ashore. With lower numbers employed than in the past, forward-looking employers are rethinking past assumptions and finding ways to train the people they need.
Onboard, there may be a much smaller number of seafarers – but they need to be talented, skilled and trained, with proper management arrangements in place to use their skill and talent. The same emphasis is true on the building side – ships and yachts and boats – with increasingly high-tech roles to fill. If those roles were not filled, it would take longer to meet orders, and that could mean losing work to other countries.
“What skills are needed and how do we get them? The risk of jobs disappearing entirely is overplayed but the nature of the skills involved will certainly change,” says Mr Mackinnon. “We need people to be much more aware of what technology can do and how to work with it effectively, and we need training courses that reflect this.”
Source: Maritime UK, 27 February 2018