Skills and career development in the blue economy

Skills and career development in the blue economy

Skills and career development in the blue economy

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Skills and career development in the blue economy

Our coasts and seas have the potential to deliver sustainable growth and jobs in the coming years and contribute towards the Green Deal objectives. A competitive, resilient and socially fair blue economy needs highly qualified and skilled professionals. Many blue economy sectors have difficulties to find the right people. The current situation, e.g. COVID-19, increases the challenges even more.

Acknowledged areas of concern are

  • skills gap between education offer and labour market needs is even more accentuated by the twin digital and climate transitions, when adequate solutions could contribute to the European recovery
  • lack of communication and cooperation between education and industry
  • lack of attractiveness and awareness of career opportunities in the blue economy
  • lack of ocean literacy culture at the basis of it all

The European Commission has put in place actions to tackle these concerns:

1. Blue careers in Europe call for proposals

The blue careers strand of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) aim to establish platforms for cooperation between business and education, at local/regional or transnational level, through relevant projects. It aims to develop and implement concrete actions to close the skills gap, tackle the unemployment challenge and raise the attractiveness of "blue careers" among students and young professionals.

With the last call for proposals on blue careers, eight projects have been selected. The new 'Blue Career' projects will work towards enhancing career opportunities in the maritime economy.

Building on lessons learned, a new call is foreseen for 2022.

2. Blueprint on sectorial skills cooperation for the maritime technology sector

The European maritime technology industry is a world leader in terms of innovation and a key enabler. It provides those more advanced technologies and structures needed for the development of all maritime activities, such as offshore renewable energy, shipbuilding or aquaculture. It also figures among the industrial ecosystems for recovery, identified recently in the new ‘European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience’ published on 1 July 2020.

Back in June 2016, when the Commission launched the "new skills agenda for Europe" to make sure that people develop the skills necessary for the jobs of today and tomorrow, the “blueprint for sectoral skills cooperation” was included as one of the 10 concrete measures to support its implementation. The maritime technology sector has been selected as one of the identified sectors to pilot this initiative.

The sector has radically changed and diversified over the last decade, passing from classical steel-intensive ship types to building the most complex and advanced technologies and vessels. It is currently one of the most research-intensive sectors in Europe (9% of its GDP invested in RDI). The industry is continuously innovating and diversifying into new activities. It also provides the technologies and vessels to enable a sustainable and safe development of the blue economy, e.g. offshore wind, ocean energy, marine biotechnology, aquaculture, deep-sea exploration and surveillance. At the same time, it also updates traditional shipping techniques in response to sustainability and climate change criteria.

To consider the needs of the sector in the future, particularly in the shipbuilding and offshore renewable energy production value chains, the dedicated Blueprint project MATES is attempting to provide useful insights in terms of skills needs and gaps.

3. Ocean literacy

The ocean is a source of life for human beings. It gives us food, oxygen and energy. It is home to many species and acts as climate regulator. Understanding how we influence the ocean and how the ocean influences us is at the core of ocean literacy. This understanding allows us to make responsible choices to protect our ocean better and to use the opportunities it offers in a sustainable manner. Thereby, it is also contributing to the improvement of the well-being of people, as envisioned in the European Green Deal.
The European Ocean Literacy Coalition (EU4Ocean) connects diverse organisations, projects and people that contribute to ocean literacy and the sustainable management of the ocean. Supported by the European Commission, this bottom-up inclusive initiative aims at uniting the voices of Europeans to make the ocean a concern of everyone!

It combines EU-wide activities with actions dedicated to the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (including the North Sea), the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the global ocean.

The coalition consists of three components:

Other initiatives also contribute to ocean literacy:

The European Atlas of the Seas which is an easy and fun way for professionals, students and anyone interested to learn more about Europe's seas and coasts, their environment, related human activities and European policies. It aims to raise long-term awareness of Europe's oceans and seas, in the context of the EU's integrated maritime policy.

A European event to engage youth in developing ideas for the sustainable use of the marine environment and resources while minimizing the negative impacts of human activities, is the Hack4Oceans. This 2-day Youth Innovation Event will give young participants across Europe the possibility to learn, explore and co-create opportunities for prosperity through ocean conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. The event will bring together undergraduate students and professional stakeholders coming from the private sector, policy-making and academia.

Hack4oceans participants will develop ideas and solutions to several important and urgent challenges related to:

  • marine Litter
  • alternative food from the ocean
  • ocean and climate change
  • protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems

Postponed due to Covid19, the Hack4oceans will take place in Brussels, Belgium on 21 and 22 April 2021.

More information



Blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills: Maritime Technologies