Is the UK still struggling to find young skilled workers?
Guest Author James Ward tackles the UK's onshore recruitment struggle and the lack of youngsters in yachting…
James Ward is the CEO & Founder of Marine Resources Recruitment, he also sits on the SuperyachtUK Committee. In this article, Ward suggests that there is a lack of entry-level job opportunities and that the industry would be better off moving away from the view that you can only work in the Superyacht Industry if you have previously worked in the Superyacht Industry.
The UK Superyacht industry offers a fantastically broad spectrum of wonderful jobs and careers which are as relevant to young people as they are to career professionals who are considering a change of industry. However, time and time again we see the industry losing out when it comes to prospective employees’ final choice, or worse, not even being considered at all.
In some areas we are at critical levels, particularly in the skilled trades roles, where we are seeing people shortages now leading to delayed builds and delivery, resulting in first-time customers not having a great first experience. Not what we need when seeking to retain new customers with a newfound interest in the Superyacht Industry.
It’s important to note that the shortage of skill is not exclusive to the UK Superyacht Industry. The UK in general is short. However, as the UK Superyacht industry is extremely niche, we are not always considered, so time and time again we lose out to more well-known industries that require similar skills, such as automotive, aviation, construction and more so now than ever, the tech industry.
In recent years we have also experienced several major events which have created the perfect storm for skills shortages; namely Brexit, IR35 reform changes and of course Covid, all having affected the employment market.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, one size fits all solution to our skills shortage problems. The shortages are also not just within skilled trades roles either, but across the board throughout the industry. There are several scenarios which break down areas we need to address, with potential solutions we need to adopt to move closer to filling the gaps.
The first is the Superyacht Industry not being considered as a viable career option. The industry is always presented as exclusive, glamorous, and elite, which is of course only the front end. It is just not appealing to the masses as many can’t relate to it. It isn’t ever introduced, especially at the school and college level for its exciting design aspects, interesting engineering qualities and of course the amazing innovation that we see from within the sector. From a career perspective, the fact it’s a Superyacht should be secondary.
There are not enough broader entry-level job opportunities. Educating industry employers will go a long way to help in this area. Most employers still think apprenticeships are only for skilled trades roles, which is simply not true anymore. In fact, you can offer apprenticeships in most roles, including sales, marketing, administration, procurement and even operations. Helping employers to offer more diverse entry-level funded jobs, will in turn see more people considering a job in our industry. Holding a tool is not for everyone remember.
Next up, we are not holding on to the young talent once they are in the industry. Whether it’s coming in via apprenticeships or degree education it comes to a point either at the end of apprenticeships or around 2-3 years of entering the industry that we lose out to competing industries. The solution here is to simply be more competitive as businesses when it comes to things like pay, mapping out career progression, structuring further ongoing training and development and embracing the importance of workplace culture and environments. All these things rank highly in importance to groups such as Millennials and Gen-Z employees.
We must accept that maybe in different generations some of this did not matter, but it does now, and we need strategies within our businesses to make sure we are doing everything we can to be as good as we can be in these areas. In the recent UK Marine Industry Employment Survey conducted by the team at Marine Resources Recruitment, it showed that work culture was the most important thing in a job with 28.1% of people saying so, 26.3% felt pay was most important and 21.4% felt career progression and opportunity was the most important thing to them.
Another scenario to help mitigate the skills shortage is ensuring the UK Superyacht Industry is being considered by people who want a career change, have cross-over skills or want to move industries. Again, from the outside, most people see the Superyacht Industry at face value. So, much like what we need to do for young people, we also need to promote the opportunities to work within amazing engineering and innovation teams to experienced professionals, the opportunity to travel and be involved within an evolving industry where a lot of roles, companies and projects are currently pioneers at what they do. Focus on making sure our working environments are appealing and we are being competitive on pay for experienced professionals is also vital. Most importantly we must move away from the view that you can only work in the Superyacht Industry if you have previously worked in the Superyacht Industry. We can open the door to amazing talent by just making previous industry experience a ‘nice to have’ and not a ‘must have’.
We work in an industry which simply needs more people, we have an ageing workforce and not enough young people backfilling across the board. The same people circulate around the industry or leave, which doesn’t increase the numbers, so we must look to the future and bring in new people. With new people comes the need for new approaches. The old ones are simply not working anymore.
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