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What Generation Z wants

Nigel Cleave at OneLearn Global suggests digital learning is one way to attract new talent to the shipping sector

Digitalisation has given rise to a maritime training industry where courses are hosted online and

through learning management systems (LMS), reducing people’s need to be in a classroom for

lessons on vessel safety or security awareness.

This tech-led approach is ideal for Generation Z (Gen Z: those born after 1996) – a group that has grown up in a digital world. But the challenge for e-learning providers is to develop training programmes that support younger people’s preferred approach to education. Consuming educational or recreational content digitally is second nature to younger generations that have always had mobile phones or tablets in their lives.

Classroom-based learning still exists, but Gen Z is just as comfortable using technology for studying or watching lectures. Maritime training companies that develop courses for digital and web-based channels are much better positioned to appeal to younger people who will be the future of shipping.

Learning through digital channels

Creating personalised and interactive e-learning programmes featuring video content and bold

colours can help attract Gen Z to the maritime sector, according to education industry research and experts. In an FE News blog on Gen Z, Sam Blyth from LMS developer Instructure wrote that new

technology was making it easier to create engaging, interactive experiences for learners. She added that students can control their learning journey by “deciding how, where and when to engage with course material, as well as to learn in a way that suits them best”.

Other studies provide more insight into how young adults and adolescents like to learn. A Barnes & Noble College report shows that Gen Z use on-demand interactive learning tools and videos alongside traditional approaches to education, such as reading a textbook or listening to a teacher in class. Moreover, they benefit from watching recorded lectures, along with other online content, and from going through digital study guides or carrying out web-based research.

According to the report, Gen Z wants engaging, interactive learning experiences, to be challenged and feel empowered to make their own decisions. As digital natives they “expect technology to

play an instrumental role in their educational experience”.

The upshot is that maritime and shipping companies should invest in digital technology and online learning tools to attract Gen Z students to the industry. Education tools for people of any age in the maritime sector should be engaging, interactive, mentally and visually stimulating, intuitive and available 24/7.

Anyone with wi-fi or broadband has instant access to masses of data and content, so people’s attention spans are naturally shorter than they once were. Younger generations want quick, bitesize training programmes, lasting no more than 20 minutes, that entertain and engage them. And they expect to take those courses whenever they choose on multiple devices, meaning e-learning must be available to maritime learners or industry employees looking to upskill, whether they are ashore or at sea.

Gen Z using digital technology to study chimes with a Pearson report showing that more than half of adolescents (59 per cent) prefer to learn by watching YouTube videos. Additionally, 55 per cent say the video streaming website has contributed to their education, learning and/or personal development.

“With a potential seafarer shortage because of Covid-19, the need for

shipping managers and operators to develop a talent pipeline is vital”

Elsewhere, a blog by marketing and PR agency Zen Media advises e-learning training providers to use hues that appeal to the eco-friendly sensibilities of Gen Z. For example, applying a green colour scheme to a digital platform is recommended, as it reflects “nature and all things organic and natural”. The blog also describes green as one of the easiest colours on the eye, communicating safety, harmony, growth, luck, wealth, optimism and stress relief.

Plugging the shipping skills gap

With a potential seafarer shortage because of Covid-19, the need for shipping managers and operators to develop a talent pipeline is vital. The recent Allianz Safety and Shipping Review

2021 report warns of long-term consequences for a maritime industry dealing with several issues such as the pandemic, crew change crisis, decarbonisation and digitalisation.

Captain Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant at Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality, said that with hundreds of thousands of crew members stuck on vessels or working extended contracts, he had “serious concerns” for the next generation of seafarers.

“Investing in a digital training platform that appeals to Generation Z

is one action maritime companies can take to attract fresh talent. They also

need to address an industry image problem that threatens to undermine

their attempts to bring in new recruits”

“The situation with Covid-19 means that we are not training and developing them [seafarers], while the sector may struggle to attract new blood due to current working conditions.”

The Allianz report adds that with economies and international trade expected to rebound post-Covid, demand for mentally and physically exhausted crew members would rise. “With so many

crew members stuck on board vessels there are serious concerns for the next generation of seafarers. Covid-19 is impacting training and development … any shortage could impact the

surge in demand for shipping as the economy and international trade rebounds.”

Outsourcing digital training for new and experienced seafarers could help alleviate the pressure on shipping companies. The shipping industry has been rocked by several challenges in recent years. Sourcing skilled crew members is difficult right now because of Covid-19 – and it could get harder as new generations entering the profession are struggling to get on board ships, making it difficult for them to gain experience at sea. However, companies facing several challenges such as the crew-change crisis and decarbonisation can get support with digital maritime training by outsourcing to a specialist.

The attraction of digital e-learning courses is they can be performed from anywhere, at any time, in the world, both online as well as offline. Training programmes give mariners of all ages – be they Gen Z, millennials or older – the complete freedom to choose how and when they spend time developing their knowledge.

While courses are developed with Gen Z in mind, more experienced seafarers have shown a real appetite for the company’s digital training programmes. Tech-savvy mariners who have spent years working at sea want cutting-edge courses that they can complete at their own convenience using their preferred device, be it a desktop, laptop, mobile phone or tablet.

Maritime needs an image makeover

Investing in a digital training platform that appeals to Gen Z is one action maritime companies can take to attract fresh talent. They also need to address an industry image problem that threatens to undermine their attempts to bring in new recruits.

In August 2021 the UK government’s Department for Transport published its report on what young adults and adolescents think of shipping. The “Young people’s perceptions of Aviation and

Maritime careers” study – involving 2,326 people aged 16 to 24 – was carried out to establish why Gen Z people are generally reluctant to consider a maritime career.

A lack of knowledge is one finding, with 51 per cent of respondents saying they knew almost nothing about what working in the sector entails. More worryingly, 61 per cent say they will not consider a career in maritime because of how they view the industry.

“Perceived characteristics of maritime jobs acted as deterrents to some extent, with a lot of young people concerned about being lonely/away at sea for long periods of time, lack of flexible work and irregular working hours,” the report said. “Insights from qualitative fieldwork indicated that these views were largely focused on sea-based roles.”

Digital maritime training providers can help challenge some of these beliefs by producing content that more accurately reflects the reality of working at sea or on shore. It’s about developing imagery and videos showing audiences what it’s really like to work in shipping.

That content can also effectively highlight the diverse nationalities, cultures and ethnicities present within maritime, which will appeal to younger people when they are thinking about their career options. People are generally more likely to opt for an industry where they feel represented, so it’s important we show that shipping is an open, welcoming sector.

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