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David Kelly: Why professional qualifications are invaluable for attracting and retaining Seafarers

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How do professional qualifications help seafarers?

I think that they not only demonstrate one’s commitment to the career but also provides them with an additional internationally recognised qualification that compliments their existing seafarer qualifications. It’s also worth pointing out that those sorts of qualifications such as Chartered Marine Engineer (CMarEng) or Chartered Marine Technologist (CMarTech) are increasingly required by companies for shore-based roles as well. So it also supports the transition from sea to shore which I think is going to be invaluable for those that are looking to make that move in their careers.

Do companies buy into the value of professional development?

I believe they do. I think that in today’s competitive business environment, organisations need to attract, retain and develop the right people and the best people and I think that there’s a tendency to look at engaging with a relevant professional body in their market place. So, certainly from a technical engineering perspective there does seem to be huge value. If we can put a career framework in place that supports the professional development of personnel within a shipping company, actually that helps to attract people into the beginning stages of their career at sea, helps to keep them at sea because they can see a route to obtaining a professional qualification, helps to keep them within the company because they are being looked after and supported etc and helps them to come ashore.  So those organisations can support and develop their talent, and I think overall the sector benefits as well because those that are really looking to develop themselves can share that knowledge in other areas and keep adding value within the sector.

Do you believe that professional qualifications are the way forward with attracting seafarers to the profession and offering career progression with retaining them?

I certainly think that it’s attractive. During the London International Shipping Week I was at a Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) networking event to meet some of the cadets that were going through their training programmes. From talking to them, there was definite requirement that a career at sea provided access to professional qualifications and I think that is certainly something that does attract people to the sector – being recognised in your field is important. There’s lots of talk about sea blindness as well and what’s the best age to promote the sector, to schools, at what level, but certainly I think that demonstrating that the sector can offer a professional route, gaining professional qualifications that you can use both at sea and ashore throughout your career is going to be invaluable. From my perspective, I fell into the Maritime sector and I think once you get into it, it holds you. It’s absolutely captivating – the industry is enormous and varied. You learn something new every single day. There’s lots of excitement, lots of roles, lots of challenges. It’s a very vibrant sector. I think trying to get that across is also quite important but certainly the draw in terms of having a professional career, both at sea and ashore is important.

Can you only get chartered if you have a degree?

Obtaining an additional professional qualification is all about demonstrating your competence, knowledge and understanding about your subject to the required level. A university qualification is just one way to do this. You can achieve IMarEST qualifications such as Chartered status (CMarEng, CMarTech, CMarSci) in a number of ways including gaining an approved postgraduate qualification, a master’s level degree, completion of a work based learning degree or even using your experience. So the answer is no, you can use your experiences alongside your merchant navy qualifications to become chartered.

What options are there for those who are navigators and deck officers and ratings?

Members of the Institute that are navigators and deck officers and ratings have a range of professional qualifications that are open to them, for example the Marine Technician (MarTech), the Registered Marine Technologist (RMarTech) and the Chartered Marine Technologist (CMarTech). We assess them around five key areas to achieve that status: knowledge and understanding, practical application of knowledge, leadership and management skills, interpersonal skills and professional conduct. One thing we have found that has been looked upon favourably, is that there is a way that deck officers and ratings can be put on a route to becoming chartered and demonstrate that knowledge and understanding to support their careers. For those holding IMO white-listed certificates of competency, Master Mariners with suitable experience can obtain Chartered Marine Technologist (CMarTech) status.

Are professional qualifications enough to entice potential seafarers or do you think more needs to be done to highlight this more captivating and exciting side to the industry? If so, how can this be demonstrated?

There are some excellent resources out there. Sea Vision is a national campaign to enthuse young people about the maritime opportunities available, the MNTB’s Careers At Sea programme is a source for entry routes, training pathways and career progression in the Merchant Navy, whilst the IMarEST has a resource (Sea Your Future) highlighting a broader range of careers available. The UK Marine Industries Leadership Council (MILC) Image Working Group is working on how to increase stakeholder and public awareness of the sector but I believe the more we (industry) can all do collectively, the better and the more consistent the message will be. I’m regularly in contact with those in the sector who hold thoroughly interesting jobs, and believe role models are a super way to inspire the next generation.


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