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Recruiting youth back to maritime roots

As of 2010 the Norwegian maritime industry will need 7,000 more engineers, but will face hard competition for workers from more profiled sectors. Nor-Shipping Campus has a plan to recruit the country’s students back into an exciting career in Norway’s...

Norway’s maritime sector accounts for NOK 130 billion in annual value creation, making it the second largest export industry after oil and gas, according to Menon Business Economics. Despite its sizeable presence, the industry will struggle to compete for new talent with other more visible industries, such as IT, media and finance. The challenge will be to educate students at an early stage about the broad variety of opportunities in a developing industry — both technologically and environmentally — and help lower the barrier for entry.

“Being on an offshore vessel is not the same as what it was 20 years ago,” says Vidar Pederstad, Nor-Shipping director and the initiative taker behind the educational event Nor-Shipping Campus. “It’s a high-tech machine.”

Nor-Shipping, the bi-annual maritime conference and event in Lillestrøm, launched the Campus programme at nearby Oslo City Hall Square at its last venue in May 2011.  The downtown pavilion overlooking the Oslo fjord featured exhibitions representing a cross section of the entire shipping value chain, including shipping companies, ship and equipment designers, classification companies, shipyards and manufacturers, shipbrokers, maritime educational institutions and seafarers’ organizations.

The Future is Maritime

The new event promotes Norway’s maritime competence to the media, politicians and general public attending Nor-Shipping, which draws tens of thousands industry participants over the course of the four-day maritime event.  But Campus is really targeted for a much younger audience: eight to tenth graders at the prime of their vocational forming years, under the slogan “The Future is Maritime”.

“The challenge is to secure competent people in 5-10 years’ time,” says Pederstad. “The belief is that you have to start earlier to promote our industry.”

Nor-Shipping Campus is a cooperation project between Nor-Shipping, Maritime Forum (which includes Oslo Maritime Network as of 2012), Norwegian Centre of Expertise Maritime, Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, Maritime Educational Forum, Oslo Maritime Foundation, The Association of Norwegian Maritime Exporters, Innovation Norway, and Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Under its first-ever event this year, Campus arranged for the transport of 4,000 junior high pupils and 200 teachers in the Greater Oslo Region, stretching from Hamar to Larvik. The recruitment potential is great. The region represents half of the Norwegian population, yet only employs 10,000 out of the 100,000 workers nationwide in the maritime industry.

Part Amusement Park

During the five-day event, students visited 30-40 exhibitor stands and experienced first-hand the possible opportunities they might have in maritime. Among the most represented exhibitors were members of the West Coast cluster NCE Maritime in Møre, i.e. Offshore Simulator Centre, ABB, STX OSV, ICD Industries, Cebrum and shipyards Havilla, Bourbon, Olympic Shipping, and Rem Offshore. From the east coast, Campus attracted maritime-related companies such as Det Norske Veritas, BW Group, Wilhelmsen, Petroleum Geo-Services, ABB, Skuld, Kongsberg and Höegh.

One of the popular attractions in the amusement park-like event was Kongsberg Maritime’s fast boat simulator. Students were invited to climb aboard the rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) simulator to experience the fast-paced ride over choppy seas, and at the same learn about the Kongsberg-based company, which delivers systems in dynamic positioning and navigation, marine automation, cargo management and level sensors, maritime training simulators and position reference systems.

“It’s certainly one of our most eye-catching simulators and we’re pretty sure that the people visiting the Nor-Shipping campus will agree when they see it and indeed get behind the wheel,” said Anne Voith, Kongsberg Maritime Simulation and Training marketing co-ordinator, in a press statement. “We hope that the noise, vibration, action and high-fidelity visuals persuade students and others to come and talk with us, so we can explain just how exciting and rewarding a career in the maritime technology industry can be.”

Tool Kits

Students spent about 2.5 hours at the 2011 Campus exhibition hall, where they were given tasks to bring back to the classroom. The hope is that Nor-Shipping Campus can deliver a “tool kit” for tenth grade teachers by the next scheduled event in May 2013. This could be used so that the maritime industry is featured among work opportunities in Skattekist (Treasure Chest), the mandatory 113-hour vocational guidance course that Norwegian junior high school students are required to take before they can chose a major in high school.

“There is no mention of maritime work opportunities in Skattekist,” says Pederstad. “It’s ironic considering the connection industries with offshore farming and oil and gas.”

Campus’ other goals are to double the participation next year to 8,000 junior high pupils and to parlay the campaign into different venues, independent of Nor-Shipping. One of the ways to do this is to work together with the aquaculture and offshore industry, two industries that share much of the same competence as the maritime sector. Here it could be relevant to participate in the future with the Stavanger-based petroleum conference Offshore Northern Seas, and the Trondheim seafood venues Nor-Fishing and AquaNor.

“We can use (Maritime Forum) to spring board (Campus) nationally,” says Pederstad. “We can work with other industries to avoid boom and bust cycles.”

Campus’ first combined offshore, shipping and seafood event will be Ocean Talent Camp on June 3-7, 2013 at Oslo City Hall Square. The maritime school day will target eighth and ninth grade students and offer schools a 50-hour educational programme developed in cooperation with Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim that can be placed within the vocational education course.