We were delighted to be approached by the prestigious shipping publication Ship Management International, to be involved in a feature they were producing around the future of the Merchant Navy for their latest issue, and in particular it’s recruitment practices.

Clyde Marine Training Director, Colin McMurray and General Manager, Katy Womersley were interviewed for the feature, and you can read the article below.

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Engaging with the seafarers of tomorrow

The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important digital connectivity is, especially with younger seafarers and the cadets of tomorrow, according to Katy Womersley, General Manager at UK-based Clyde Marine Training (CMT).

“Being visible is probably our biggest objective, not just online but through College Open Days, school visits, careers events/exhibitions around the UK, and through initiatives that we are passionate about, such as Buoyed Up and Primary Engineering.

“These latter face-to-face activities have obviously had to take a back-seat in the current situation we face, but it has emphasised just how important the digital connection is with a younger audience, and how important it is to effectively utilise these online platforms.”

She said social media had also been a very important tool in reaching a younger audience, and such platforms were used to post career opportunities and show films highlighting the diversity of roles available in the maritime sector.

And in a world where many other new, exciting industries are cropping up, shipping is having to up its game to continue to attract new cadets.

“We have observed how the shipping industry as a whole is working together to take stock and review how we showcase the training and careers cadets will receive, and there is a concerted effort to modernise the industry wherever possible to meet the expectations of gen Z, such as the introduction of electronic Training Record Books through to simulator training and online distance learning,” said Ms Womersley.

Colin McMurray, CMT Director, added: “We still strongly believe that the shipping industry offers one of the most diverse and exciting career paths today. The global marketplace continues to expand, and international economies depend upon shipping for their sustainability and growth.

This continued demand for shipping means flow of jobs and career opportunities. “We are also constantly reviewing and benchmarking our selection processes to get exceptional candidates.

This means using data to support our decisions and also the increased use of technology through digitalisation to speed up many of the processes involved. There is no point in showing the bridge of a ship and all its technology and then using a paper application form! This way we remain competitive in the eyes of potential delegates.”

Like many companies, CMT is now working remotely from home but Mr McMurray said this doesn’t mean the recruitment process had ground to a halt. Instead, it expects to conduct over 200 interviews via Skype before the end of May.

“If this recent crisis has shown us anything, it is the sector’s ability to adapt, and I firmly believe this required shift to online learning will become a fixture of learning in years to come, and again fits very well with the generation of prospective officers,” added Ms Womersley.

CMT is also aspiring to engage school pupils with a variety of projects, which it will resume when safe to do so. These include ‘Primary Engineer’ which, over the last 12 years, has created an engineering curriculum for Early Years education.

CMT was approached to become involved in the programme three years ago and its direct participation has seen its training officers – ex-Marine Engineers – going into selected schools to provide guidance and experience in assisting pupils with the projects they are working on.

“We make it a point to not overtly push marine engineering at this stage, as we see the bigger picture of getting primary school children enthused with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, and companies like ourselves will benefit from a larger pool of diverse, engaged and excited participants in future years,” said Ms Womersley.

Another initiative for Early Years is Buoyed Up, which looks to raise the aspirations and opportunities open to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and hopefully introduce them to opportunities that would perhaps not have been clear or open to them.

“Quite literally, a busload of children from selected schools around Glasgow have visited us on a regular basis and took part in various exercises conducted throughout the day by management including myself, and training officers, that have a marine theme,” explained Ms Womersley.

McMurray said these two initiatives dovetailed perfectly with CMT’s already established relationships with the nautical colleges and universities. CMT is also in the final stages of completing a Virtual Reality technology project with one of its sister companies to be used at events, to allow potential candidates to visualise directly what a career at sea looks like.

He said it was a worry that young people would be swayed into other industries such as technology but CMT was working closely with partner organisations such as the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), UK Chamber of Shipping, maritime colleges, shipping companies and maritime clusters to create workshops and focus groups to evaluate the current offering at all entry levels and ensure standards and training speak to a modern audience.

“We try to sell the bigger picture and the many routes that are open to cadets when they qualify as an Officer. Not only can you progress at sea to prestigious roles such as Chief Engineer and Captain, you have a plethora of on-shore career options after serving at sea – technical roles, brokerage, insurance, law and training,” said Mr McMurray.

“We also emphasise the fact that it’s a fantastically well-paid career compared to many industries, and the potential for travel is tremendous.”

Ms Womersley believes there is “still some work to do” to make sure the industry is more welcoming and all-encompassing in a sense of gender diversity.

“With changing technology, physicality isn’t as important, and this opens up genuine opportunity for females to take up roles that would never have been considered in the past.”

CMT is involved in the Women in Maritime initiatives, run by Maritime UK, but, she said, it was not just about gender but about diversity in terms of background, which is why programmes like Buoyed Up are so important.

Founded in 1986, CMT was set up as a direct consequence of the acute shortage of officer cadets entering the Merchant Navy. Through the hands of Managing Director Joyce Downie and now Colin McMurray since 2004, the business has grown to be the UK’s largest Maritime Training Provider, managing 50% of all Merchant Navy officer Cadets in the country at any one time.

CMT currently has over 800 cadets in training, representing over 50 clients, and works with nautical training colleges throughout the UK.

In 2016, the Northern Marine Group acquired the Clyde Group and CMT became a part of the wider Stena Sphere. “This has allowed the business to further flourish and has provided an internal support platform of significant ability and scale,” said Mr McMurray.

Ms Womersley said Humber Maritime College had recently joined the roster of nautical colleges. “To see a new college coming into the sector, and one with such a fresh take on how training should be shaped for the future, highlights the strength and attractiveness of the industry,” she said.

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