UK Industry Groups Call for Mariner Training Funds
The UK Chamber of Shipping has called on the governments of Scotland and the UK to help the nation's maritime workforce weather the current market conditions – especially those in the hard-hit British North Sea offshore industry.
“The industry has always had its ups and downs, but there is justifiable concern that the numbers of British seafarers based in Aberdeen and elsewhere are in decline," said Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, President of the UK Chamber of Shipping, in a keynote address last week. “The skills required to work in the offshore sector are highly specialized, but with the right support they can be transferred into other areas of shipping; and government must act to provide support and funding to help seafarers re-skill and get back to sea.”
The government has already dedicated over $20 million in funding for its Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) program, which subsidizes training for UK and EU citizens in the nation's maritime industry. However, as maritime education is less expensive in many other parts of the world, "the UK Chamber is . . . calling on government to implement a SMarT Plus option and increase funding to incentivize companies to train more seafarers," Henderson said. These companies would then "commit to giving cadets their first job, ensuring the government sees a return on its investment."
Industry association Oil & Gas UK said last week that it expects employment in (or created by) the nation's offshore industry to fall by 120,000 from its 2014 peak by the end of this year. "We cannot underestimate the impact the global downturn in the industry is having on the UK economy, nor the personal toll for those who have lost their jobs, and the effect on their families and colleagues," said Deirdre Michie, the group's chief executive. Oil & Gas UK’s annual conference will be held this coming week, and business and government leaders will convene to discuss potential solutions – including training for workers exiting the sector. Scotland has a $17 million Oil and Gas Transition Training Fund, but Labour Economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie told the Scotsman that the measure is not enough. “These are stark figures which underline the scale of the oil jobs crisis. In the short term we need to support workers. The SNP’s flagship training fund has not delivered anywhere near enough support," she said, calling for additional relief for laid-off workers.