One of the most pressing issues in the marine industry today is how to attract and retain young talent. Workforce development seminars are a common fixture of marine industry events, reflecting a growing concern about the industry’s ability to engage with the next generation. However, in my experience, many people in the industry publicly express their belief in opportunities for young people, while privately seeking unskilled labor with little chance of career advancement.
For many in the marine industry, success is measured by the number of schools that adopt maritime programs. In the past, I have advocated for raising awareness of the industry as a core issue. However, I have come to question why there is such a lack of awareness. One possible reason is the absence of real role models in the marine industry. Apart from family-owned boatyards and shipyards, it is challenging to identify any service providers that are truly excelling in the industry and inspiring the next generation of professionals.
Below is a list of the reasons that I have heard along my journey:
1. Lack of awareness:
Many young people are not even aware that the marine industry offers a diverse range of career paths beyond being a fisherman or boat captain. This lack of awareness can be attributed to a range of factors, including a lack of information and outreach by the industry itself, as well as limited exposure to marine-related activities in urban areas. As time has gone on, the marine industry has increasingly moved away from city centers to more industrial areas. This trend has contributed to a decline in public exposure to marine activities and opportunities. For example, people living in cities may not have access to boats or marinas, limiting their exposure to the marine industry. Furthermore, educators and other influencers may not be fully aware of the opportunities available in the industry, further exacerbating the issue.
2. Perceived lack of excitement:
Many young people view the industry as being associated with hard work and long hours, which may not be seen as attractive or glamorous compared to other industries that offer more flexible working hours or a better work-life balance. This perception can be further compounded by a lack of public recognition or prestige associated with the marine industry, making it less appealing to the youth. Moreover, the marine industry is seen as being less innovative and technologically advanced than other industries, such as tech or healthcare, which are perceived as more exciting and dynamic. This perception can be a barrier to attracting young people with strong technical and innovative skills to the marine industry.
We need to shift the narrative and highlight the exciting and rewarding aspects of working in the industry. For instance, the marine industry offers unique opportunities for adventure, travel, and exploration that few other industries can match. Moreover, the industry is increasingly embracing new technologies and innovative practices to enhance efficiency and sustainability, which could appeal to young people with an interest in cutting-edge technology.
3. Limited career pathways:
Many young people may be interested in pursuing a career in the marine industry, but they may not know where to start or what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. This lack of clarity can be a significant barrier to entry for young people, who may be deterred by the perceived complexity of the industry. Moreover, the marine industry has limited career pathways compared to other industries, which may make it less appealing to young people who are looking for a diverse range of career options. This perception can be further compounded by a lack of visibility of the diverse range of roles and career opportunities available within the industry, beyond traditional roles like boat captain or fisherman.
The marine industry must work to provide clear and accessible career pathways and guidance for young people who are interested in pursuing a career in the field. This could involve partnering with educators and industry experts to develop training programs and apprenticeships that provide young people with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the industry.
Have you ever seen any stats on how much people make in the industry? Neither have I
4. Lack of diversity:
Historically, the marine industry has been male-dominated, which has created a perception that it is not an inclusive or welcoming environment for women and other underrepresented groups. This lack of diversity can be a significant barrier to entry for young people who may not see themselves reflected in the industry or who may be discouraged by the potential for bias or discrimination. A lack of diversity can limit the industry’s ability to innovate and adapt to changing market trends and consumer demands. By failing to reflect the diversity of the wider population, the marine industry may miss out on important perspectives and insights that could help to drive growth and innovation.
The marine industry must work to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. This could involve partnering with organizations that support underrepresented groups, providing training and education on diversity and inclusion, and actively recruiting and promoting individuals from diverse backgrounds. By creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment, the marine industry can attract and retain young talent who may be deterred by the perception of a lack of diversity.
5. Stereotypes and prejudices:
One of the challenges facing the marine industry in attracting and retaining young talent is the presence of stereotypes and prejudices that can deter young people from pursuing a career in this field. For example, there is a perception that the marine industry is only for those who are mechanically inclined or who are interested in the technical aspects of ships and boats. This narrow view of the industry can be a barrier to entry for young people who may have different interests or skills. In addition to stereotypes around technical skills, there are also prejudices around gender, race, and socio-economic status that can discourage young people from pursuing a career in the marine industry. For example, the perception that the industry is only for men or that it is not accessible to individuals from lower-income backgrounds.
To address, the marine industry must work to challenge and overcome these stereotypes and prejudices. This could involve promoting a more diverse range of career pathways within the industry, highlighting the many different roles and skills required to operate and maintain ships and boats. It could also involve promoting the industry as a dynamic and exciting field that offers a range of opportunities for career growth and development. Moreover, the marine industry must work to create more inclusive and welcoming workplaces, where individuals from diverse backgrounds are valued and supported. This could involve providing training and education on diversity and inclusion, actively recruiting and promoting individuals from diverse backgrounds, and fostering a culture of respect and openness within the industry.
6. Limited access to education and training:
Many careers in the industry require specialized education and training, such as marine engineering, marine transportation, naval architecture, and marine biology. However, there is a lack of available programs that offer these specialized courses or programs, particularly in areas that are far from the coast. In addition to the lack of available programs, there may also be financial barriers to education that make it difficult for young people to pursue a career in the marine industry. This could include the cost of tuition and other educational expenses, as well as the cost of living near a coastal area where many marine-related jobs are located.
The marine industry must work to increase access to education and training programs, particularly in areas that are far from the coast. This could involve partnering with educational institutions to develop and promote marine-related programs, as well as providing financial support to students who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry. The marine industry must work to create more opportunities for on-the-job training and apprenticeships, which can provide valuable hands-on experience for young people who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry. This could involve working with industry organizations and employers to develop and promote these programs, as well as providing financial support to students who are participating in them. By increasing access to education and training programs, and providing more opportunities for on-the-job training and apprenticeships, the marine industry can attract and retain young talent while also developing a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
7. Limited job opportunities:
While the industry offers a wide range of careers, particularly in areas such as marine engineering, shipbuilding, and marine transportation, job opportunities may not be as prevalent in certain regions or sectors. This can be particularly challenging for young people who are interested in pursuing a career in the marine industry, as they may not have the same level of job security or stability as they would in other industries. Additionally, the perception that job opportunities in the industry are limited can deter some young people from pursuing a career in the field.
The marine industry must work to create more job opportunities, particularly in areas where the industry is underrepresented. This could involve working with local and regional governments to develop and promote policies that support the growth of the industry, as well as investing in research and development to create new products and services that can drive job growth. In addition to creating more job opportunities, the marine industry must also work to promote the value and benefits of working in the field. This could involve developing marketing and promotional campaigns that showcase the diverse range of careers available in the industry, as well as highlighting the unique benefits of working in a field that is dedicated to preserving and protecting the world’s oceans and waterways.
8. Competition from other industries:
The industry faces stiff competition from other industries that may be seen as more glamorous or lucrative, such as technology, finance, and healthcare. The marine industry needs to address this challenge by promoting the unique opportunities and benefits of working in the field. This could involve showcasing the diverse range of careers available in the industry, highlighting the potential for advancement and personal growth, and emphasizing the unique nature of the work. To attract young talent, the industry must also offer competitive salaries, benefits, and working conditions that are on par with other industries. This could involve investing in training and development programs, offering flexible working arrangements, and providing opportunities for career advancement and growth. In addition to promoting the benefits of working in the marine industry, the industry must also work to create partnerships and collaborations with other industries. This could involve developing joint training programs, sharing resources and expertise, and working together to address common challenges, such as climate change and environmental sustainability. By collaborating with other industries and promoting the unique benefits of working in the marine industry, the industry can attract and retain young talent, while also contributing to the growth and development of the broader economy.
The industry needs to invest in promoting the unique opportunities and benefits of working in the field, provide competitive salaries and working conditions, and create partnerships and collaborations with other industries. By doing so, the industry can create a more inclusive, diverse, and sustainable future while also addressing the needs of the broader economy.
Final note: It is unfortunate that despite the pressing need to address the challenges facing the marine industry and the youth, there are still obstacles that prevent progress from being made. As someone who has been deeply involved in the conversation about how to bring more young people into the industry, I can attest to the fact that it can be an uphill battle. Even when presenting well-informed and researched proposals, there is often resistance and skepticism from those within the industry.
In my experience, the most significant challenge has been trying to convince industry insiders that I am not an outsider or naive, but rather someone who is passionate about the industry and its potential. Despite my commitment to helping improve the industry and create more opportunities for young people, I have often been met with suspicion and mistrust. This has made it challenging to build meaningful relationships and collaborations within the industry.
However, I remain committed to finding ways to make a positive impact and overcome these challenges. It is essential to continue advocating for the needs of the youth and the industry as a whole, and to build bridges between stakeholders and decision-makers. With persistence, dedication, and collaboration, we can work together to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for the marine industry and the young people who wish to make their careers within it.