Notably, automation will incur a fundamental transformation in the way seafarers work, replacing partly the human element and having an impact on the skills operators will be looking for. Nevertheless, a significant gap in such soft skills can be expected in the future, relating to the loss of productivity and profitability. CSR will further adhere to a larger sense of social conscience and environmental responsibility; focus on diversity; human rights and the wider acknowledgment of the industry per se. But what will be the future key trends and potential challenges for crew training for the next few years?

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In fact, during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum, four training experts; Dimitrios Fokas, Training Manager at Maran Tankers; Evangelos Tzitzis, Training Manager at LATSCO; Capt. Dimitrios Aslanoglou, Training Manager at Eletson and Erik Green, Managing Director and Partner at Green-Jakobsen A/S, led a fruitful discussion concerning the key trends and challenges of crew training with an eye on the future of the industry. In particular, the panelists discussed digitalization, the green era, the human element and the need for development of soft skills, especially in younger generations, further highlighting the importance of good communication.

It is projected that seafarers need to be trained and informed on a wide variety of issues concerning the environment, safety and operational matters in order to properly operate smoothly when aboard. Thus, shipping companies must not only cope with already existing operational costs but must also keep up training standards and procedures in line with frequent updates of rules and regulations in order to be competent and well-informed.

In particular, Capt. Aslanoglou aspires for a day when cost will no longer have to do with the effectiveness of training procedures, the demands of the industry will no longer lead people to non-safe acts and safety can be guaranteed by all personnel on board. In fact, for Capt. Aslanoglou, safety should always be considered a given aboard, on the level that there is no need for further developments of safety procedures to be in place anymore. For him, the biggest challenge for marine training is the permanent establishment of safety onboard.

For that to materialize, an informed technology must be designed and established throughout the industry. This can be accomplished through the process of training and re-training the crew in order to not only adapt to the changes of the industry and further help the employees learn faster but to also assist in remaining employable in the future.

Nevertheless, according to Erik Green, “the industry offers a lot of training, a lot of possibilities for training, but I think where we can improve, and where we should improve is on the process of learning development,”. For him, it is of vital importance to understand that other things come in to play other than getting basic information from a course. The biggest challenge of training nowadays appears to be making seafarers accountable for their own training, as well as addressing the already existing learning disability.

It can be said that marine training must put more effort into putting the learner in the center of the training procedure and adhere to the needs of seafarers, by getting to know them in a way to help them excel and succeed; assessing their strengths and weaknesses leading to even specialized training. The learning procedure per se must be visual, clear and rewarding, establishing that every learner is different and has different needs.

Moreover, according to Capt. Aslanoglou, it is important for operators to hire the right people with creative ideas and effective collaboration, leading to an easier way forward, and embracing the challenges of the future workforce in the industry. It is rather said that, generally, operators need to provide better crew welfare by putting the human factor back on focus.

As previously stated, it is expected that humanness will be highly valued within the industry in the years to come. Therefore, ship owners and operators can invest in critical human skills such as moral and ethical decision-making, listening to the employees and making sure their efforts are appreciated and that they feel valued in order to give back more in exchange. It is also said that ship owners must embrace and encourage diversity and inclusion in order to meet the industry’s new talent demands throughout.

Namely, Mr. Tzitzis, highlights that the current and true trend nowadays is human connection on board. More attention should be put on the human element and “the input of emotional intelligence in training” in particular. The importance of crew diversity as well as the vitality of functional, cross-cultural and varied training should also be mentioned. It should also be established that there is value and significance throughout procedure, “when a seafarer is coming to be trained; they have to understand that we give value in their training,” he adds.

For Mr. Fokas, technical and soft skills should be developed in parallel these days, further highlighting the development of appropriate technology and the essential need to try and change the way people of the industry think. It is important that they move into risk assessment and safety culture is established and developed from the early years as well.

Adding to this, it is important that training providers keep up with trends and design training in accordance to the digital evolution, further aiming to convince seafarers from different backgrounds and cultures to use technology and at the same time make this technology user-friendly and attractive to them. Marine training can then take advantage of such advancements and thus bridge the gap between younger generations and the industry with modern and interactive tactics, engaging and effective ideas, in order to meet the goals of an active educational attitude.

The challenge of communicating with a new generation of potential seafarers in order to attract them in the industry must subsequently be addressed; the answer as to how to communicate and attract Post-Millennials in an industry which is stuck to the traditional methodologies lies in getting to know them and understanding their needs, grabbing their attention and engaging with them. Notably, this generation has completely different perceptions about how information is generated and distributed, expecting things to run smoothly and to work faster, tending to lose interest quickly if things don’t answer their demands.

Indeed young people tend to think they know everything, and even if they are not always right, yet, it is the job of the industry to understand and guide them starting with the basics, making them suspicious so that they can perform in their prime, Capt. Aslanoglou adds; younger seafarers should follow the rules, be suspicious and active. Similarly, for Erik Green, young people may seem to have all the answers, but more attention should be put on providing them with proper guidance, while always keeping in mind that they are clever and full of potential. Mr. Green is concerned with the poor image of the industry and the impact this can potentially have on the younger generations.

Evangelos Tzitzis, further recognizes the poor image younger generations may have for the industry and further states that they rather need to be inspired and that “everything has to be said in an honest and human connection”. Additionally, even though younger generations think they know everything with the all the available information due to the internet, there must be strong commitment of the management to show them the culture and the enterprise in particular, as young people need to understand where they are coming; who they are and what they are doing.

In fact, younger generations need to be trained and understand what life at sea is all about, recognizing that living conditions are better now than were in the past, due to the various features available, such as connectivity, according to Dimitrios Fokas. Still, there is belief in young people and their capabilities. It is lastly mentioned that they are closer to technology and its advancements and even potentially closer to the ships.

Concluding, to overcome challenges and provide better training, focus should be shed on quality and learning development rather than discussions on what more seafarers are required to be trained in. Better understanding of knowledge, education and training for all people getting in the industry are needed along with a growth mindset which will inspire young generation and bridge any gaps.