As the industry digitalises, a strong focus on talent development will be critical to ensure its continued success
The COVID-19 pandemic catalysed an industry-wide transformation and highlighted the need for efficiency and safety. Through digitalisation and adopting new technologies, maritime companies could overcome the operational limitations posed by containment measures, which would help boost the industry’s resilience in the long term.
With innovative technologies deployed in the industry, we believe that the new normal for the maritime industry will differ from today’s landscape. We can expect to see ship supplies delivered via drone, contactless clinical assessments through telemedicine, a seamless data-driven port-ship interface characterised by vessels arriving “just-in-time”, and a reduction of paperwork. This would also support the industry’s vision of a more sustainable future.
Technology is always about doing more with less, yet it is important to recognise that it is most effective when paired with a human. A machine-augmented approach enables the ability of the human workforce to operate more productively and efficiently, thereby optimising business outcomes.
To establish a continuous pipeline of talent, the industry will need to constantly reskill or upskill existing workers to ensure future-readiness and attract talent with diverse backgrounds.
Human Capital Remains Critical for Success
The Human Resources (HR) function serves an important role in developing, reinforcing, and changing the culture of an organisation. To support HR, initiatives such as the Circle of HR InnOvators (CHRO) network, jointly launched by the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), was established to encourage maritime HR leaders to share knowledge and best practices, thus driving effective organisational transformation.
Beyond promoting transformation within the workplace, much effort has been invested in dispelling misconceptions that the industry is a labour intensive and niche one. A key objective is to attract new talent into an industry that offers a myriad of exciting careers across various sectors. In fact, digitalisation has created the need for new roles such as data analysts, system engineers, and data scientists.
Bridging the private and public sectors, the SMF is well placed to support the maritime industry’s manpower attraction efforts through profiling and outreach initiatives. For example, the annual MSC Maritime Careers Workshop organised by the Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office, a unit under the SMF, invites prospective joiners to network with professionals from leading maritime companies to find out more about maritime careers. Through the MSC Web site, students and jobseekers can conveniently seek out maritime opportunities and learn more about the industry.
In addition to engaging jobseekers, the MSC Office gathers maritime HR partners as well as career counsellors at Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) and career centres at the annual MSC Connexions Forum to provide valuable insight on maritime manpower issues and employment trends to support their talent attraction efforts.
A Beacon for Fresh Industry Joiners
Maritime policymakers and industry players have collaborated on several initiatives aimed at helping candidates ease into the industry. The SGUnited Traineeship Programme is a great start for fresh graduates who wish to embark on their maritime journey as it allows them to glean a little into the world of maritime, while the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Sea Transport Professionals jointly developed by MPA, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and Workforce Singapore (WSG) will prove useful for mid-career switchers.
MPA has also partnered with SSG and WSG to update the Skills Framework for Sea Transport by providing information on new and emerging skills such as IT and data analytics. This will equip maritime companies and jobseekers in their response to digitalisation, bridging the gap between policymakers and the private sector.
The Road Ahead
Digitalisation is necessary for the evolution of the maritime industry. Rather than viewing this digital disruption as an existential threat, industry stakeholders will need to collaborate and formulate ways to elicit optimal outcomes and maximise human capital through a technology-augmented approach. Talent attraction and development will have to work hand-in-hand with digitalisation to keep the industry ahead of the curve.
Kenneth Chia is Executive Director of the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF). He oversees the Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office, a unit under SMF, to ensure a continuous pipeline of talent for the maritime industry in Singapore.
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