Where are the Brits?

The Maritime Masters final proved again this year to be a great showcase for young talent across the maritime industry – but where are the Brits? Just one of the nine was a British student. I’m delighted to welcome talented people to our shores, but I’d like to see more British talent challenging them for the top slots. We’re missing out.

As a Commissioner with the Maritime Skills Commission I have volunteered to take the lead on our seventh objective, to “increase exports of maritime education and training”. Amongst the Maritime Masters finalists there were students from China and Greece, India and Malta, Chile and Mauritius. I think that’s wonderful. I am enormously proud to be British, and delighted that so many talented young people from across the world have chosen to come to my country to study.

I hope they made friends here, and participated in a rich exchange of ideas, and leave with warm memories of their time in Britain. At one stage I chaired the board of a large college of further education, the first to win a Queen’s Award for its international work. I was very pleased that the able woman in charge of our international team was as keen to tell us about the educational value to home students of mixing with others from overseas, as she was to talk about how much we earned from them. Learning is about opening doors, and it was clear from listening to those Maritime Masters finalists that they had relished every moment of their opportunity.

That’s really good. But are our own students as keen to grab those opportunities? Or their employers to offer them?

As a participant in an EU-funded study trip to Gothenburg in 2015 I was very struck by a comment made by our colleague Christian from Bavaria. He was disappointed that “only 4%” of Bavarian apprentices have a spell in another country as part of their apprenticeship. I’m pretty familiar with the British apprenticeship scene and I have never seen any stats about overseas opportunities; I expect that beyond some intra-company transfers in the big international firms, numbers are close to zero. Again, we’re missing an opportunity.

In “Catching the Wave”, their report on the UK’s maritime professional services sector published a year ago for Maritime London, PWC said this about the universities they praised:

“At the same time, there is also a need to encourage more UK students to undertake maritime business education. Currently most students enrolled in these courses are international students”.

We should take up that challenge. We should go out of our way to promote our top class academic opportunities to our own top students as well as to those from overseas. We should be exposing talented young Brits early on to the best of the best. We are the most international of sectors and need to be more energetic in cultivating our top talent.

About Iain Mackinnon

I am Managing Director of The Mackinnon Partnership, a niche consultancy working primarily with public sector clents in the UK, and focusing on skills and enterprise, usually in the wider context of wider economic development.
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