Young seafarers in the UK are to be given more support and encouragement with increased funding from the government, the UK’s Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani announced on 12 September.

Speaking at London International Shipping Week (LISW), Ghani revealed that the UK Government will set aside £730,000 to boost maritime careers with the aim of increasing diversity. The investment is to improve the skills gap rampant in the industry.

A slew of programmes and interactive roadshows have been launched to encourage more female students to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. In the new scheme announced, girls aged 11–14 will be paired with women in the shipping sector who will mentor them and make them aware of career prospects in maritime before they make their GCSE choices.

According to UK Minister for Women Victoria Atkins, girls are less likely to pursue STEM subjects during higher studies – despite getting good grades – and therefore need more inspiration from role models.

“[The] industry is missing out on top talent,” Atkins said. “Our women of the future need role models. This fantastic project, which pairs girls with inspiring women from the maritime industry, will show them how pursuing careers in these areas can lead them to great things.”

Breaking down the funding pledge for UK shipping

As part of the initiative to drive more diversity, the Maritime Minister announced that £40,000 will be injected towards the ‘Maritime and Me’ campaign launched by Maritime UK. The campaign aims to encourage girls to join the maritime industry by showing them the different opportunities available and by highlighting women working in a variety of roles.

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Ghani announced that £250,000 will be used for a new single industry body which will be responsible for increasing awareness of maritime careers in schools and promoting the sector to students.

As part of the funding, £300,000 will be used to create a new Maritime Skills Commission which will identify existing and future skills needs of the sector and ensure that the training curriculum continues to evolve.

Speaking at LISW, Ghani affirmed that the industry is “truly fantastic place to build a career”.

Ghani added: “We need to ensure this fantastic industry is fuelled with the brightest talent from across the country, and that means tapping into the potential of our diverse society and increasing the number of women working in maritime.

“In doing this we will boost British standing in maritime globally, allowing us to successfully lead the charge to a bright new future for the UK,” she said.

As part of the focus on the maritime workforce, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced an additional investment of £140,000 to safeguard the wellbeing of existing seafarers and cadets. To make sure they are supported after returning from sea, it will also collaborate with a host of charities.

Increased government support for shipbuilding

Alongside injecting funds for improving the talent in the shipping industry, the government is committed to realising the UK’s potential to be a world leader in commercial shipbuilding.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to “bring shipbuilding home.” He announced at the LISW that five Royal Navy frigates will be built exclusively in the UK, with different elements being fabricated and assembled at various British shipyards with the first vessel expected to be in the water by 2023.

This will help create circa 2,500 jobs in the British shipping industry over the next few years including 150 technical apprenticeships.

Johnson said: “The UK is an outward-looking island nation, and we need a shipbuilding industry and Royal Navy that reflect the importance of the seas to our security and prosperity.

“This is an industry with a deep and visceral connection to so many parts of the UK and to the Union itself. My government will do all it can to develop this aspect of our heritage and the men and women who make up its workforce – from apprentices embarking on a long career, to those families who have worked in shipyards for generations.”

The sentiment towards strengthening the UK’s position in the global maritime industry was shared by the minister for investment at the DiT, Graham Stuart. In his keynote speech at the LISW conference on 12 September, he said: “We are a world leader in the design and manufacture of commercial, naval and leisure vessels and a significant exporter of yachts, including some of the most advanced safety technology.

“The government is committed to the future of the maritime sector providing the framework for investment and growth, promoting the innovation that keeps us ahead of our competitors and creating the conditions in which competition can thrive.”