Campaign For More Maritime Qualifications In UK

Concern about the lack of suitably qualified candidates for maritime careers has led to calls for the introduction of a new maritime T-level in England. The Express and Star reports that over half of Merchant Navy officers are now recruited from overseas, because of a lack of suitably qualified homegrown applicants.

Maritime UK has lent its support to the campaign, to increase opportunities for college-leavers, especially in coastal towns which often have higher than average levels of unemployment and poverty. The organisation pointed out that workers in the shipping industry are paid 30% higher than the average national wage. 

Sarah Kenny, chair of Maritime UK, said: “Developing the skills and pathways for the next generation to thrive in maritime is key to our global trade and our green future.”

She added: “Recent government-industry collaboration has moved the dial on maritime skills, but there is scope to go further and faster, providing a new world of opportunities for young people in coastal communities.”

T-levels are a new qualification introduced in 2020, which are the equivalent to 3 A levels. The two-year courses are designed to be taken after GCSEs at the age of 16, and are gradually being rolled out across selected colleges in England. They are designed prepare students with the technical knowledge needed for skilled employment.

Subject areas include building service engineering for construction, onsite construction, healthcare science, and digital business support services. Currently, almost no English schools include maritime skills in their curriculum, although some Scottish schools do.

The content of the T level courses has been developed in close collaboration with industry employers and educational providers, and they will include at least 45 days of on-the-job experience within a relevant sector. 

Ms Kenny commented: “Tomorrow, these schoolkids can be ensuring our country’s energy security, strengthening our naval defences, be piloting AI ships, and building our new Teslas of the seas.”

She added: “As an island nation, maritime is a major part of our past, present and our future. So it’s about time our kids were given more opportunities to learn about maritime in our classrooms.”

Earlier this year, government statistics revealed that the total number of UK seafarers had declined by 8% annually, which is part of a wider pattern of decline for UK based employees in the maritime industry. The seafarer Union RMT claimed that apprenticeships in maritime skills were being side-lined by employers in favour of hiring cheaper labour from aboard.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch commented: “These figures show UK shipping is in a crisis of its own making. UK-based Ratings now only hold 11.5% of over 82,000 jobs and the number of Deck Ratings has plummeted 40% with very few apprentices in the pipeline.”

“Maritime apprenticeships should be backfilling seafarer jobs after the pandemic but employers are simply ignoring them in favour of cheaper crew from countries with appalling human rights records.”

At the time of writing, there has been no official response from the government about a potential new maritime T level qualification.

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