All aboard – marine recruitment trends for 2012

The economic crisis has left its mark but marine recruitment experts are expecting a significant boost in 2012. Frances Cook interviewed Natalie Desty, the department head of marine and shipping at Matchtech, one of the UK's leading technical recruitment agencies, to find out what is happening in the industry and what growth we can expect in the UK.


Frances Cook: What key challenges are currently facing the marine recruitment industry as a whole?

Natalie Desty: Skills shortages are the biggest problem. The different sectors of marine have never got together and discussed how they will safeguard for the future.

"We are expecting recruitment increases and skills shortages across the industry, but these will not be at the same level."

The only area that has done this is renewables. Nuclear has also done something similar with the Nuclear Engineering Council, but historically defence have not done this and now the sector is really struggling to recruit the number of people required.

Other challenges include the rise of rival industries, such as nuclear, construction and oil and gas, which are offering good rates of pay and attracting people back. We are losing a lot of people who are trained for the marine sector to other industries.

Another big challenge to the industry comes as a result of the changes that have been made to the points-based system - changes to the UK's entry and visa requirements will put a further strain on the marine recruitment market. On 6 April 2011 the Tier 1 sponsorship route was closed for new applications and from April 2012 graduate students will no longer be eligible to apply for leave to remain in the UK, unless they are offered a position from a sponsoring employer.

This change will have a huge knock-on effect as now there is a much smaller pool of graduates for all the sectors to recruit from.

FC: Which areas offer the most recruitment potential?

ND: We are expecting recruitment increases and skills shortages across the industry, but these will not be at the same level.

Commercial and shipping is increasing, so is leisure (from the export of pleasure crafts which is being seen increasingly in the emerging markets). However, these will increase more in 2013 and 2014 as they are also areas that have been the most affected by the economic downturn. The biggest increases and skills shortages are going to be in naval and defence and renewables.

FC: What skills are generally in demand in marine recruitment?

ND: Broadly speaking for marine we need people in design, such as naval architects, marine engineers, draughters and we also don't have enough people actually building the vessels: welders, painters, fabricators and so on.

In shipping there is a huge shortage in sea-going and shore-based personnel, chief engineers and health and safety professionals.
On top of that we're noticing a shortage in sales and marketing professionals, which has never been an issue before.

We've found over the last six months, where the market showed recovery, that people have gained confidence to move around and many have moved from marine into other areas, such as aerospace or automotive, which is busy.

FC: Are there any changes taking place in the renewables area in particular?

ND: Significant UK and export opportunities are being created by the UK's entrepreneurial lead in the renewables field, bolstered by the UK Government's commitment to green energy.

The government is looking to confront bottlenecks in suppliers' skills and, with a company called Renewable UK, has put in place the Renewables Training Network.

In 2011 the training network started for people leaving school and university and also to encourage engineers to transfer from other industries. It is predicted that the 800 currently employed in this sector will increase to 19,500 permanent employees by 2035.

FC: How does Matchtech work with the industry to address key challenges and skills shortages in the industry?

ND: The company works with industry and academics and tries to ensure there's enough graduates coming out of university to overcome the skills shortages. We're a partner of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects and on the training council for the British Marine Federation and have a graduate candidate attraction team that visits every university and tries to attract as many graduates as possible to engineering.

We're currently looking at how we can influence school leavers to make career decisions earlier on, as there is a real lack of engineering graduates coming out of university.

FC: How do you see the industry developing in the long term - can we expect growth when looking forward to 2020?

ND: We expect defence to stay steady and increase over the next five years.

"The different sectors of marine have never got together and discussed how they will safeguard for the future."

Recruitment on the Type 26 and Successor project, which should be 15-year projects, will provide sustained recruitment.

The export and leisure trend is a bit more difficult to predict - it should increase year on year but this depends on the global market.

Renewables is a huge growth area up to 2035. Shipping is yet to address its skills shortage so time will tell whether they look to place more emphasis on recruiting for overseas operations or have initiatives to recruit more in the UK.

Certainly at the moment we are expecting all four areas to increase recruitment up to 2020.


To find out more recruitment trends in the marine sector as a whole please click here.