Singapore Maritime Foundation publishes report of the Tripartite Advisory Panel for Future-ready Maritime Workforce

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The Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) has this week released the report of the Tripartite Advisory Panel (TAP) for Future-ready Maritime Workforce. Formed in 2023, the objectives of the TAP are to identify the skills that the maritime workforce needs for 2030 and beyond, propose strategies to spur workforce transformation, and consider how Singapore can contribute to the effort to prepare the workforce for change as industry transformation catalysed by digitalisation and decarbonisation accelerates.

The TAP was co-chaired by Mr. Hor Weng Yew (pictured), SMF Chairman and CEO & Managing Director, Pacific Carriers Limited; and Mr. Nick Potter, SMF Board Member and General Manager, Shipping and Maritime, Shell Eastern Trading. They were joined by industry leaders from across the spectrum of the maritime ecosystem.

In formulating its recommendations, the TAP conducted a series of extensive focus group discussions with a wide cross section of industry leaders. Accompanying the industry consultations were a series of questionnaires responded to by industry professionals, and a study on ‘The Future of Seafarers 2030: A Decade of Transformation’ that the SMF co-sponsored with Norwegian classification society DNV.

Evident from the deep-dive discussions and questionnaires was a clear consensus that irrespective of sea-going or shore-based professionals, the maritime workforce has to continuously deepen its domain skills and build emerging skills in an age marked by pervasive technology and change.

In designing the architecture across the sea-and-shore nexus and the skills typologies that the maritime workforce would need, the TAP’s intention was to keep the recommendations succinct, comprehensive, and forward-looking. To plug these skills into Singapore’s industry transformation maps, the TAP used the SkillsFuture skills frameworks as a guide in its deliberations.

In identifying the skills that the maritime workforce needs to be equipped with for the future, the TAP introduced three skills categories: domain skills, digital skills and soft skills to reflect the importance of such skills as the industry transforms.

Across domain skills, digital skills and soft skills, there are (i) enduring skills that the maritime workforce should continually develop and deepen; as well as (ii) emerging skills that should be built to adapt to rapid technological, societal or industry changes.

In formulating its recommendations, the TAP conducted a series of extensive focus group discussions with a wide cross section of industry leaders. Accompanying the industry consultations were a series of questionnaires responded to by industry professionals, and a study on “The Future of Seafarers 2030: A Decade of Transformation” that the Singapore Maritime Foundation co-sponsored with Norwegian classification society DNV.

Evident from the deep-dive discussions and questionnaires was a clear consensus that irrespective of sea-going or shore-based professionals, the maritime workforce has to continuously deepen its domain skills and build emerging skills in an age marked by pervasive technology and change.

In designing the architecture across the sea-and-shore nexus and the skills typologies that the maritime workforce would need, the TAP’s intention was to keep the recommendations succinct, comprehensive, and forward-looking. To plug these skills into Singapore’s industry transformation maps, the TAP used the SkillsFuture skills frameworks as a guide in its deliberations.

In identifying the skills that the maritime workforce needs to be equipped with for the future, the TAP introduced three skills categories: domain skills, digital skills and soft skills to reflect the importance of such skills as the industry transforms.

Across domain skills, digital skills and soft skills, there are (i) enduring skills that the maritime workforce should continually develop and deepen; as well as (ii) emerging skills that should be built to adapt to rapid technological, societal or industry changes.

The TAP outlined three key strategies for developing a workforce to be better prepared for the maritime industry’s future needs:

(1) Improve the way we enable maritime professionals to deepen and broaden their skillsets
Fostering a lifelong learning mindset is paramount for the maritime workforce’s future readiness. This necessitates a re-imagination of education and training. The TAP proposed that IHLs and training providers start by infusing training elements as part of a re-designed education curriculum for maritime-related qualifications.

These training elements could be in the form of practical internships and/or short stints at sea, which prepares students for a maritime career, regardless of whether they choose the sea-going or shore-based route. Students entering the maritime workforce must advance their school-learned skills and stay informed about new industry developments and necessary emerging skills.

(2) Strengthen sea-to-shore transition and enable multiple career pathways within the maritime industry

In attracting and retaining talent, the TAP’s consensus was that it is essential that the maritime industry is able to offer diverse opportunities across both sea-and-shore. This will allow the industry to strengthen and develop the maritime talent pipeline and workforce capabilities required to navigate the future.

To enhance the value proposition through strengthening the link between sea-and-shore, the TAP proposed that the industry review its people practices across both sea-and-shore to achieve a more integrated workforce. HR policies, for example, can pay attention to the lifecycle needs of maritime professionals and support them through their different life stages, such as marriage and family needs.

(3) Reimagine the way students and non-maritime professionals discover and strengthen their affinity with the maritime industry

As workforce dynamics evolve, the TAP’s view was that it is vital for the industry to reimagine and amplify outreach efforts towards students and non-maritime professionals to attract new talent.

This will enable the sector to tap on diverse skillsets to solve complex challenges for the industry, which will require capabilities from domains outside of maritime.

The TAP noted that Singapore, as a leading international maritime centre and global hub port, is well-poised to take a bold step forward in transforming the maritime workforce. Adjacent to the holistic and dynamic maritime cluster are Singapore’s institutes of higher learning that are regularly ranked among the world’s best, as well as a thriving technology sector. Underpinning a conducive macro-environment, supportive government policies are augmented by a positive tripartite relationship.

The TAP recommended the creation of a “Hub for Future Skills” with a front office as a focal point to coalesce collaboration and cooperation among the key stakeholders to offer innovative, industry-oriented stackable skills and micro-credentials to prepare the workforce for change.
The TAP recommended that the “Hub for Future Skills” look at domain skills, digital skills, and soft skills as they are complementary and reinforcing, and that its offerings cater to pre-employment training (PET) for the undergraduates who are on the cusp of entering the workforce, continuous education, and training (CET) for the professionals who are in the industry, and career conversion for those who are considering a switch into maritime.

“Fundamentally, sustainable, and substantive workforce transformation requires an ecosystem-wide approach,” said SMF Chairman Mr. Hor Weng Yew. “That many leaders from across the industry, the union, higher education, and the technology sector willingly and generously came forward to contribute to the Tripartite Advisory Panel augurs well and is an affirmation of the cohesiveness of Maritime Singapore. This cohesiveness provides an excellent springboard for the way forward.”

Digital copies of the TAP Report on Future-ready Maritime Workforce at https://www.smf.com.sg/resources-publications/.

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