The Expert Group on SKILLS AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT IN THE BLUE ECONOMY was created by DG MARE in 2017, is registered on the Register of expert groups (ref. no. E03399) and is governed by the standard rules of procedure of expert groups set by the EC. It acts at the request of DG MARE, supports DG MARE in the context of the development of the skills policy for the marine and maritime sectors, provides its opinion or recommendation on specific questions put forward by DG MARE and advises on issues pertinent to education, training, skills and career development within the blue economy. The members of the group represent different sectors of the blue economy and different sea basins and they have been selected on the basis of their high level of expertise.
The meeting was hosted and chaired by Andreea Strachinescu, Head of Unit A1: Maritime Innovation, Marine Knowledge and Investment, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission.
A1 opened the meeting with a tour de table, starting with presenting the new DG MARE HoU and the official in charge of this file and inquiring on the last contribution of each expert in the context of the group; a number of them had to do with the compilation of a relevant publication on best practices in the experts’ areas of work (released last year). A1 highlighted further the need for prior consultation with the EC on the profile of any substitute of an expert, since these were initially selected based on their personal expertise on the issues at hand, to ensure fruitful discussions and concrete input during the meeting. Previous long periods of inactivity would need to be mended too; this being the 3rd (and final) year of the group’s mandate, future consultation of experts on skills issues will be dependent on the results yielded so far and their willingness to contribute; DG MARE will explore best avenues or alternative formats to continue with this work stream and will inform experts accordingly. Finally, A1 requested the group’s final contribution of input and insights as to the improvements necessary in the blue economy skills sector and further ideas for the future of this group, to be used by DG MARE with when drawing up new policy initiatives for the new European Commission.
A1 introduced the agenda point on the 7 projects that were selected under the EMFF’s 2016 Call for Blue Career projects. Each presentation highlighted in particular major best practices that could serve as a guidance for other similar initiatives and other replicable elements; the barriers to be encountered in transferring their results and the strategies to mitigate them were also presented. All relevant presentations can be found in this link.
Main take-away messages from the ensuing discussion: there is a need to focus more on trainings and courses that provide the vocational and technical skills necessary for a skilful workforce in the blue economy’s various sectors rather than on master’s degrees and upper education (which are more easily available); also, to look more into life-long learning opportunities and development provided by the companies of the sector. The collaboration between universities and industry, like in the form of hybrid lecturers, was hailed as a very good approach. The licencing of professors and the professional recognition of training experience is necessary, as is a continuous collaboration between teachers (scientists) and industry and its support. We must utilise to the maximum the experience of the ageing skilled labour force; and to try and reflect the appeal of new digital skills in the blue economy sector in customised state-of-the-art, smart, digital, technologically superior skill-sets.
The creation of Blue Careers centres to recruit skilled personnel can instigate relevant national strategies and also raise awareness as to the opportunities for careers in the sectors involved –recruitment of talent (or more talent) should be developed locally but could also come from other non-traditional maritime regions, which can provide equally capable, trainable personnel, in need of sustainable work. In this respect, ideas for the establishment and propagation of maritime academies, as spin-offs from some of the projects were highlighted. A call to persuade the industry to consecrate more resources in vocational training to their ultimate benefit was also made. As was the need to well define in advance the actual skill-sets currently missing from the emerging blue economy markets and sectors, at EU level if possible. Finally, it was acknowledged widely by the group that ocean literacy efforts and initiatives in the form of blue schools and maritime education from the early, formative years of one person’s life (early teens) is the ultimate pre-requisite to attract and retain talent and skilled workforce in the blue economy sectors that mostly need it.
This agenda point had as a main aim to gather input from the experts to help complete the Baseline document compiled by the MATES project on the mapping of the skills gaps in the 2 identified sectors (shipbuilding and offshore renewables). After the relevant presentation of the main elements of this report, 4 breakout discussion groups were formed to address the questions raised in the relevant discussion document:
A synthesis of the main findings of these 4 breakout tables is summarised as follows:
A general remark was also made on the need for a glossary to clarify the meaning of the terms employed in the Baseline report.
DG EMPL, present at the meeting, highlighted in this respect that:
Career guidance (or professional orientation services) can play a role in demonstrating to youngsters (lower secondary) the multiple pathways that exist. The same applies later with vocational graduates (associate technician) or university graduates (engineer). Specialised staff and infrastructure for career guidance services is more appropriate, not necessarily extra-modules in curricula. Career guidance/promotion can also be provided at sectoral level (see as example the centre of excellence in water in Leeuwarden - (https://www.errin.eu/members/watercampus-leeuwarden), which has developed playful “water packages” for primary schools to initiate children to the sector.
- Group experts to come back to the MATES Team (at: firstname.lastname@example.org) with their comments and potential feedback on the baseline report by 08.05.2019, to facilitate its completion.
Istvan Vanyolos, EC-DG EMPL- B1, presented recent findings in the area of the EU employment strategy, the main trends that drive the employment market nowadays (digitalisation, globalisation, evolution of new forms of work, ageing population, climate change and its repercussions); expanded on recent initiatives put forward to address the situation (the Pillar of Social Rights, the New Skills Agenda, the recent Directive on minimum working conditions and a Council Recommendation); and debriefed experts on the results of the Conference on the Future of Work held the previous day, in the presence of President Juncker; he recommended in particular to consult the High-Level expert group report presented during the day on the impact of digital transformation on EU labour markets (available at the Conference's site).
During the discussion on this subject, questions as to how to engage with the industry to incentivise them to provide the relevant resources for the retraining/reskilling of the workforce since they have first-hand knowledge of the needs and will be the primary users of a better skilled workforce were raised. The finding that albeit everyone agrees more and better skills are needed, there is no consensus on how to achieve this or who will pay for it was also debated. The advent of digitalisation and the rapidly automated industries in the blue economy needing urgent upskilling responses was what the group mostly raised in the discussion. Finally, while acknowledging the fact that the employment challenges are universal across sectors, the take-away message of the discussion was that there are 2 ways to go about the problem: learning how to learn (more preventive) or being operational in this new skills environment and solving problems here and now; either way requires a choice as to where to invest money.
- Experts to consult the Report released on the impact of the digital transformation, presented during the recent Conference on the Future of Work, as well as other presentations on the day, on the conference website.
Francesco Losappio, EC-DG EMP- E2, presented the rationale and the recent updates of the ESCO classification system for occupations and skills in Europe, also by navigating through the ESCO website, that lists occupations, skills and qualifications (translated into all EU languages + NOR, ISL). He highlighted why this remains a powerful tool for employers and employees for cross-border employment mobility, the general function of the labour market, for education and training purposes. He indicated that the present classification, published 2017, is now undergoing revision, to present a new, enhanced repertory of skills and occupations in 2021. For this purpose, all stakeholders and the general public can provide feedback and information on missing elements, profiles and other useful additions to the current version (through relevant entries in the Forum of the Portal) to help improve the listings and fill potential gaps. The presentation given as well as a compilation of all occupations in the blue economy can also be found in the public link.
- Experts to consult the ESCO portal. To analyse the skills and knowledge-sets attributed to each occupation and provide relevant feedback, comments and contributions as to the occupations, skills and qualifications repertories in the blue economy sectors in the dedicated ESCO forum, to help with its upcoming revision.
Through a video link to San Diego California, USA, Melissa Fischel, in charge of Education and Workforce Development at the Maritime Alliance presented the non-profit industry association's (and a member of the BlueTech Cluster Alliance) mission in promoting Sustainable Science-Based Ocean & Water Industries. They do so through a varied assortment of activities, spanning from piloting BlueSTEM pathways in high schools, to the launch of career videos and of a dedicated website, to summer immersion programmes and internships, to the establishment of a dedicated blue economy education collaborative and many other initiatives and work streams.
This inspiring, vast array of activities provided examples to emulate in the EU as well. Some of the proposed actions resemble initiatives already rolled-out in Europe, such as the Blue Schools or the attempts to establish an ocean literacy platform, to raise awareness from the early phases of people’s lives of the value and the opportunities seas and oceans provide. One of the main take-away of this presentation was that the association is already deeply seeded in the private sector, which enables funding to carry out the proposed activities.