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Glenys Jackson of MNTB: Successful Methods for Seafarer Recruitment and Training

KNect365 Maritime: How should the shipping world develop in order to show itself as an attractive industry for young people to pursue a career in, and in order to retain seafarers?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: Shipping companies receive a large number of applications, on a regular basis, from young people for their officer cadet and rating training places, so the industry is clearly already attractive to many of them. We have to make sure that we highlight the attractions and keep those in line with the way that careers information is provided or made available to young people. It’s saying these are the skills needed so if you have these skills you could make a great marine engineer, navigating officer at sea or a great ship’s captain etc.

In order to retain seafarers, it’s about ensuring seafarer career progression and employment opportunities are better defined and articulated, providing a clearer picture for better decision-making. For those who are coming ashore, there has to be suitable and appropriate pathways for them to progress their careers and to make that transition from sea. For those who are at sea we need to better recognise their expertise and competencies, which are over and above what the certification is all about. Certification is just a baseline, the common ground that all seafarers stand on, but what makes a seafarer different from anyone else thats got the same qualification is their professional development and personal skill-set. I think that will help with retention - if we’re able to better show the skills, expertise and competencies that seafarers have. I believe this can be achieved through Master’s degrees and chartered status.

KNect365 Maritime: How do you feel the profession gears itself towards women? Does anything more need to be done to attract women into the industry?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: The bottom line is that it doesn’t particularly gear itself towards women. Whilst women are valued and sought after for their skill-sets, the industry doesn’t appear to have done a great deal to try to make the sea change that is really needed to make itself attractive to females. We should be saying to the industry you are not only missing out on half of the population, and their expertise, but you should also be recognising your responsibilities in this area.

There are some pockets of work but I think we need to look at more co-ordination and an industry level strategy to promote women in the industry. This could be achieved through providing case studies of women working at sea and their career paths, particularly highlighting successful role models.

KNect365 Maritime: What do you think are the teaching and training expectations of Generation Z?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: We need to have better cognisance of how Generation Z have been taught, and of current teaching and learning methodologies. Generation Z coming into the industry will have been taught in quite different ways than previous generations  and so we need to make sure that we provide appropriate teaching, leaning and assessment experiences. It’s a matter of variety, rather than a one size fits all.

KNect365 Maritime: Do you think the key skillsets and attributes required for seafarers are changing?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: To be a seafarer you need to have a considerable modicum of self-sufficiency, common sense, ability to learn and to be ambitious. Independence is a big thing for a seafaring career, as is being proactive and adaptable. As technology changes the skill-set of seafarers also needs to change; although underlying skills remain, related to navigating the ship, looking after the cargo and making sure engines and all ancillary systems and services are operating as effectively as possible. Also changing is the knowledge required for those skills. For example do you really need to know how to work out a particular formula for stability when you’ve got a computer programme that does it for you? You need to know what the concept is do you need to be able to work out that formula yourself?

We need to feel more confident about making better use of the tools that are available to seafarers to be able to carry out their job. As job roles are changing, the way we do our jobs are changing. We need to help seafarers to understand those changes and be in the best position to adapt and develop their skills for that.

KNect365 Maritime: What challenges does the Merchant Navy face when recruiting seafarers?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: I think a big challenge is being able to provide an appropriate picture of what a seafaring career is all about and what it can provide and not give false expectations. For example, many newly qualified officers will need to actively source their first job. This is the same for most people in most industries, but unfortunately within seafaring there appears to be an expectation that when you complete your certification there’ll be a job waiting for you to walk into. That’s not reality. So it’s about having realistic expectations of how to secure, and the time it might take to secure, a first job.  The MNTB provides support to newly qualified officers seeking their first join through www.casandbeyond.org, with a range of job search tools and advice.

In terms of recruiting seafarers into existing jobs there is a challenge for the industry as some companies want to employ senior officers but not junior ones. How can senior ranks be achieved other than working through junior one? I think that’s a bit of a challenge that the industry is facing with regard to UK seafarers particularly.

KNect365 Maritime: Which methods have proved the most successful in recent years in employing seafarers?

Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board: You need to have a robust and flexible adaptable social media strategy which is constantly updated. We need to be as current as possible with careers messages and the way we put those messages out. So for instance, ten years ago, we flooded careers publications and school careers libraries with information about our new foundation degree based programme. Now we use social media and specific on-line promotion activity; it’s about keeping up to date.

There’s also a need to look at national careers activities and find appropriate hooks to incorporate seafaring careers into. And we also target specific groups, such as young people involved in boating activities - do they know that there are careers on the water that they could pursue, including, obviously, seafaring? Another example would be young people in youth groups such as sea cadets and sea scouts where there is already an affinity with the sea. It’s also about being better keyed into 14-18 education and what’s happening with that throughout the UK. That way the industry as a whole, and individual companies at local level, can do more to link themselves into relevant things.

Glenys Jackson is the Head of the Merchant Navy Training Board. Glenys runs the day-to-day operations of the MNTB, overseeing and facilitating its technical work, new entrant training programmes, careers promotion strategy and managing the Maritime Educational Foundation.Glenys’ background is in teaching and educational consultancy. She has been at the UK Chamber since 2000 and MNTB head since 2008.

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