Tech-savvy candidates from outside maritime are needed to spearhead high-level change, while seafaring jobs need to attract a younger generation
As organisations adjust to digitalisation, candidates with expertise in this area who can spearhead organisational transformation are in high demand at both executive and managerial levels.
In a presentation at London International Shipping Week this year, Faststream Recruitment founder and chief executive Mark Charman presented an update on the current and future state of maritime recruitment.
A Faststream survey this year found 76% of executives surveyed felt maritime would benefit from an influx of talent from outside the sector. IT and technology were identified as desirable backgrounds for new hires, along with the traditional alternatives including finance, energy, aviation and engineering.
“The maritime sector will increasingly look for new leadership with new way ways of thinking”, said Mr Charman, adding “This talent is not going to come from the maritime sector via the traditional routes of talent.”
However, Mr Charman also noted that while organisations claim to want to bring in talent from outside the sector, many remain very safe in their hiring practices.
“We rarely see executives being recruited who do not have the specific vessel type or exact industry experience specified at the beginning of the search,” he said, adding “Organisations are still focused on people who they perceive can make an impact quickly.”
Looking at the demographics of the seafaring workforce, the declining number of European seafarers is a trend that could be replicated globally, and future maritime leaders are unlikely to come from a seafaring background, Mr Charman added.
“As more traditional seafaring candidate-rich countries become more developed, we expect to see a noticeable decrease in people moving into seafarer careers when other opportunities are increasing, especially in IT, technology and telecommunications jobs ashore.”
The generation gap is another key issue – not only are seafarers coming ashore younger, but employees at the lower end of the age spectrum have very different attitudes and expectations to their seniors.
“We see this new workforce bringing an attitude of ‘What can you do for me?’, not ‘what can I do for you?’,” said Mr Charman.
“They want to know how you are going to develop them and help them move forward in their career.”
And employers are changing their expectations too, with ‘soft skills’ such as empathy, patience, a collaborative attitude, and cultural and generational awareness all in demand from potential candidates alongside professional experience and knowledge.
The issue of gender diversity – just 4% of seafarers are female – is also a consideration, at least at the executive level, with Faststream seeing increasing requirements for female leaders in the past year.
“They are addressing that gender diversity is a problem, they want to do something about it and they are starting at the top,” said Mr Charman. “This, in turn, could prove wise and help to attract more female talent into lower ranks too.”
Mr Charman also noted that owners and operators tend toward a reactive recruitment strategy, looking to take on new staff in response to things that have already happened. Conversely, the wider industry including OEMs and service organisations, is taking a more proactive approach, taking on candidates based on what may give a competitive advantage for what is perceived to be on the horizon.
“What is important to note is that the maritime industry is not stagnant, it is evolving and changing very quickly, and we must do all we can to keep up with this new journey,” he said.