In part one of this two-part series on human capital in shipping – a key theme at Europort 2023 – Jakob le Fevre offers his take on the training and recruitment of maritime professionals in today’s fast-changing and fiercely competitive market.
As a master mariner and Managing Partner at global maritime recruitment specialist MARPRO – which is also a Europort media partner and organiser of the Rising Stars Pavilion event for maritime technology start-ups – Jakob le Fevre has unique insight into the maritime labour market. “Working at MARPRO is like having a window into the shipping industry through which we can observe the latest trends as they unfold,” he says. “Right now, we are seeing strong demand for technical profiles, and in the near future, we envisage a steep increase in demand for offshore skills related to the green transition and the protection of coastlines.”
However, in a fast-changing industry, not all of the skills companies require can be recruited; some have to be taught. Le Fevre points to a MARPRO client and Europort 2023 exhibitor that was recently seeking a Technical Instructor to offer specialised training at its academy due to the growing prevalence of alternative-fuel engines. “Shipping is in a period of transition, and there is an increasing need for training courses to keep skills up to date and relevant,” he explains. “Developments are happening so quickly that established institutions are having a hard time keeping up.”
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While shipowners previously had a handful of software applications to choose from, they now have over 550, Le Fevre adds. “This proliferation of digital technology requires specialised training in addition to the traditional educational pathways in navigation, marine engineering and naval architecture, for example.”
A candidate’s market
Another consequence of the industry’s urgent need for new skills is fierce competition in the labour market, with candidates holding more power than ever. “These days, skilled professionals can take their pick of employer,” says Le Fevre. “The winning companies are those that offer an engaging and modern management style with flexible hours and, in the case of shore-based positions, remote or hybrid working.”
Yet many maritime enterprises are struggling to adapt, Le Fevre continues. “Employers are accustomed to a market in which applicants undergo a time-consuming hiring process. In a market like today’s, recruitment requires a significant investment of time and focus from the employer, and a delay of just a few days in the process can mean missing out on a highly qualified candidate.”
In the second instalment in this two-part series, Captain Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General for InterManager, provides the ship-management perspective on human capital in shipping.
Join the discussion on human capital, and other key themes in the maritime sector, at Europort 2023 – 7–9 November.