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Seafarers Awareness Week – Inspiring the next generation

To celebrate Seafarers Awareness Week 2016 (20-26 June), we will be posting one blog each day guest-written by our HR Consulting department. The first blog comes from Karen Waltham:

"If someone had asked me at the age of 10 what I wanted to be when I was grown up, I would have said a Chemist.  My father was a Pharmacist with his own shop and as a family we all helped out.  It was the only job I knew (other than the Bank Manager, that my father always spoke about), and nobody ever really talked about anything other than University or College beyond school.

Now as a mother, I find myself trying to help our boys of 19 and 22, consider what they want to do as a career.  For the last 7 years, they have both been at the receiving end of careers advisors, educational workshops, industry presentation, university open days, and all have tried to tempt them into ‘their’ world and a first step from education towards a career.

There is a real disconnect though between my personal and business life in maritime HR and experiences of ‘careers’.  After working for many years in the HR world professionally, I moved into shipping and maritime 9 years ago. Wow! What a different world! What an exciting, and fascinating world, and what opportunities it offers. Yet it had taken me so many years to find this jewel in the crown; or the hidden treasure!   

Having made this transition into the maritime world in business, I thought I would share and spread the word in my personal life and started at home. I offered Naval Architecture to my son as a career idea, given his dream to be an Architect since the age of 9.  Despite all the years of support and help provided, and having been part of the Naval Combined Cadet Force (CCF), he opted for Brighton University.  He still admits he had never considered shipping or the maritime world, as it was never raised outside of the home environment. 

So in my business world, I was delighted to sign up as a career volunteer last year as part of the UK’s Inspiring Futures Campaign, taking time to visit schools and young people to talk about the world of work, and future jobs that they may start to consider.  This was my opportunity to spread the word about careers in shipping to a wider audience – children, teachers and career advisors.  A small step in making a sea change.

At a recent ‘What’s my Line?’ event at a Primary School for year 5s (aged 9-10), I was invited to take along 3 things which helped explain where I worked.  I took a banana, my mobile phone and an inflatable globe.  Out of 30 children only 2 made the link with ships and jobs in shipping.  All focus was on retail, or technology, however interestingly both rail and air travel were mentioned extensively.   However by the time I left, all had seen the fabulous picture of a container vessel and we had been able to talk about the large number of jobs both sea and shore that people can do. 

I appreciate that there will be a different message across different parts of the globe.  However many people understand the demographic changes, and the impact on manpower for the future.   

I am constantly trying to make the links, and often in conversation with young people I will suggest jobs in shipping.  Just one example may be in accounting or finance where they may consider positions or companies who are offering junior voyage finance, demurrage, or perhaps ship broking positions. So if we are getting it wrong in places, where and why? 

More importantly how can we improve: how we share the excitement and passion those of us in the industry feel with those who will be in our jobs in years to come?  How can we energise and excite the young, and enquiring minds of today?  I know I am doing as much as I can; are you?"

Karen Waltham, Managing Director, HR Consulting, Spinnaker Global

You can connect with Karen on LinkedIn here:

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