Tackling the seafarer shortage with online training courses

The shipping industry has been impacted by not only the Covid-19 pandemic but also the issue of sourcing skilled seafarers. Frankie Youd speaks to Nigel Cleave, senior advisor at OneLearn Global, to find out more about the maritime training provider’s courses and how the user-friendly interface has been designed with Gen-Z in mind.

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Covid-19 has heavily impacted the shipping industry, which has seen crew stuck onboard vessels for months at a time, shipping container shortage, crew unable to board vessels, and more. Alongside these issues comes the concern surrounding a seafarer shortage, due to Covid-19 making in-person training and crew changes near-impossible.

As a result, some are turning to online training courses to source up-and-coming seafarers and combat the skill shortage. Online training courses provide a platform that allows crew to further develop their skills while unable to board vessels, as well as provide a learning environment for those considering a career in the industry.

The online training allows courses to be completed when convenient for the individual in bite-sized, user-friendly time scales, which provide users with achievements and feedback – enhancing the overall learning experience.

Senior advisor at OneLearn Global, Nigel Cleave

Covid-19: increasing the adoption of digitalisation

The pandemic has been a catalyst for embracing digitalisation, with many individuals and industries being catapulted into online meetings, e-learning, and using new technology to continue working in the ever-changing pandemic – and post-pandemic – environment.

This is also true of the shipping industry, which has witnessed increased connectivity for seafarers, due to social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions resulting in individuals being unable to attend training centres for lessons and training.

The introduction of online training courses for the shipping industry not only aligns with the paradigm shift towards a more digitally focused future but also provides new opportunities for shipping.

They used to train once they were on board, and they still do that, but I think they like seafarers to be well prepped before they get on a ship

Nigel Cleave, senior advisor at OneLearn Global, comments: “It’s so much easier to do the training online. What we are seeing today is a lot of pre-joining training going on where the owners and managers would like the crew to go through the various courses before they join.”

“Whereas when they got on board, they used to train once they were on board, and they still do that, but I think they like seafarers to be well prepped before they get on a ship.”

With the availability of Wi-Fi increasing on vessels, crew members can access the training courses onboard ships, as well as allowing the content to be pre-downloaded onto the vessels allowing flexible, anytime-anywhere learning.

What do the courses cover?

The courses are presented to the user in the form of 15–20-minute lessons. Cleave explains: “We were really focusing and considering Gen-Z and the millennials, because this is the future of the industry. We thought how they think, how they look at training, and at the end of the day we have gone down to a maximum 15-20 minutes per module.”

“If we have a very lengthy course that can't be cut down, what we'll do is put that into two or three parts, they still get 15-20 minutes and then their retention levels reduce because they’re multitasking onboard the vessel. They can do the courses anytime, anywhere, any place that they've got their mobiles. We tried to make everything flexible to fit in with what they do.”

The courses are aimed at those who are entering the Shipping industry and cover topics from first aid, fire safety, and vessel skills. They also cater to those with a more experienced seafarer background, with topics covering crowd management, preparing crew and vessel for Covid-19 protocol, and security.

You will have what we call ‘rusty seafarers’ who have been unable to be on vessels. With our courses, they can keep up with regulations

The wide range of courses not only allows those beginning their career to further develop their knowledge and skills, but also provides an opportunity for seafarers to polish their existing skillset, which may have been put on hold due to the impacts of the pandemic.

Cleave explains: “We are seeing two elements, those on board who can't get off the ship and those onshore who can't get on the ship. You will have what we call ‘rusty seafarers’ who have been unable to be on vessels. With our courses, they can keep up with regulations, they keep up with training while they wait to get on board.”

“They can carry on and continue with their training, it will hopefully keep them at peak rather than going ‘rusty’.”


User-friendly presentation

To create a user-friendly, appealing learning platform, the company applied findings from research studies to its training platforms – such as the colours that are used, and the formats that information is presented in.

In a study carried out by UK-based multinational publishing and education company Pearson, a survey of 2,588 people in the US aged 14-40 explored attitudes, preferences and behaviours surrounding the use of technology in education. Results showed that 32% of Gen-Z (aged 14-23) prefer online courses with video lectures compared to 25% preferring eText. The results of the survey also showed that 59% of Gen-Z preferring to learn by watching videos.

Taking these results onboard, OneLearn global applied the findings to how content is formatted in the app with the content being presented in a video format over the less popular choice of eText style learning.

Alongside the format, the company also invested time into the overall aesthetic of the app and how the content is presented when it came to colour choices.

A study carried out by marketing and PR agency Zen Media highlights how the colour green presents a natural, organic feel as well as being one of the easiest colours on the eye, communicating growth, luck, and stress relief. This led to OneLearn global presenting content with green-focused colour palettes and themes to create a welcoming, attractive visual for the eye.

Assisting the skill shortage

As with many other industries, the challenge of attracting younger workers into the industry is one targeted by CEOs and HR departments alike. Courses such as the one provided by OneLearn Global hope to not only assist seafarers when it comes to their learning and career development, but also encourage and aid those who are starting out within the industry.

“We have to try to encourage the young people into the industry. There are big discussions going on at the moment with organisations who say that there is going to be a shortage of officers which will be a problem going forward,” According to Cleave.

We have to try to encourage the young people into the industry

“We have got to make life easier for them and attract the young talent because it is a great job, but you know you've got to make it very attractive in many respects and that does start with training. It’s a great career opportunity once you've been at sea and come ashore, we have got to really demonstrate that to the potential students.”

So far, the course has received positive feedback from those using the platform, which the company hopes will not only continue but will also carry on allowing seafarers to hone and develop their skills.