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 growth and jobs in the coming years. In order to achieve blue growth, highly qualified and skilled professionals are needed. Yet many blue economy sectors are experiencing difficulties in finding the right employees – and most sectors expect these difficulties to continue in the near future: This is due to:

  1. a skills gap between education offer and labour market needs, especially with regards to technological developments and innovation
  2. a lack of communication and cooperation between education and industry
  3. a lack of attractiveness and awareness of career opportunities in the blue economy
  4. lack of ocean literacy culture

Four main actions have been put in place to tackle the skills gap in the blue economy:

1. Blue careers in Europe call for proposals

The Blue careers projects (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) work programme 2016, EUR 3.452.000) aim to establish platforms for cooperation between business and education at local/regional or transnational level to develop and implement concrete actions to close the skills gap, tackle the unemployment challenge and raise the attractiveness of "blue careers" among students.

Seven projects covering both higher education and vocational training have been selected and have started at the beginning of 2017.

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

"A new skills agenda for Europe" was launched in June 2016 and aims to make sure that people develop the skills necessary for the jobs of today and tomorrow, contributing to growth across the EU.
Among the 10 concrete measures supporting the implementation of the skills agenda for Europe is the blueprint for sectoral skills cooperation.

The maritime technology sector has been identified with other 5 sectors to pilot this initiative. The European maritime technology industry is a world leader in terms of innovation and key enabler, providing the more advanced technologies and structures needed to ensure the development of all maritime activities, such as offshore renewable energies or aquaculture.

Over the last decade the sector has radically changed and diversified passing from classical steel-intensive ship types to building the most complex and advanced technologies and vessels. The sector is one of the most research intensive ones in Europe, with 9% of its GDP invested in RDI and it is continuously innovating and diversifying into new activities. The industry is providing the technologies and vessels to enable a sustainable and safe development of the emerging blue economy: offshore wind, ocean energy, marine biotechnology, aquaculture, deep sea exploration and surveillance.

This demands new skills in highly specialised niche sectors. The blueprint serves as a framework to develop a comprehensive strategy and concrete actions at European level with an action plan to be then implemented at national/regional level. It is organised into 3 phases:

  • Selecting sectors where the blueprint can bring added value: this is based, amongst others, on  evidence of skills gaps and their potential impact on growth, innovation and competitiveness. This phase can take place in more or less structured ways, depending on the way the sector is organised. A good example is the work carried out by the European Sector Skills Council on Maritime Technology and the Leadership 2020 initiative.
  • Setting up a sectoral skills partnership at EU level: the partnership will translate the industry's sectoral needs in terms of skills into a comprehensive strategy for skills development and policy recommendations as well as concrete solutions, such as designing or updating curricula and qualifications. The partnership will also develop an action plan, to support roll-out at national/regional level during phase 3 of the blueprint. The EU partnership platform will be industry-led and will gather key stakeholders from different maritime technology segments and diverse geographical areas including maritime clusters, education providers (both Vocational Education and Training (VET) and higher education), industry, social partners, employment services, certification bodies, standards bodies and governments.

    The call to set up the EU partnership was launched in January 2017 (deadline 02 May 2017), under the Erasmus + programme (through the Sector Skills Alliance instrument, Lot 3). (The video from the info day of 16 February 2017 is available).
  • Rolling out at national and regional level: Building on the results achieved at EU level, the blueprint will be progressively rolled out at national and regional level, in cooperation with national and regional authorities, and key stakeholders according to national/regional needs. This phase could be funded through structural funds such as European Social Fund (ESF) or European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) but this would require a decision by the relevant managing authorities. The EU partnerships will look into replicable models to facilitate the use of EU funding to support this step. Other public and private funding should also be used.

3. Expert group on "Skills and career development in the blue economy"

The expert group is composed of 40 experts and will support the European Commission to develop a skills policy for the marine and maritime sectors. The group will also give advice on education, training, skills and career development within the blue economy. The group representatives cover different sectors of the blue economy (shipping, shipbuilding, tourism, ocean energy, aquaculture, fisheries, marine biotechnology, etc.) and represent different sea basins.

All information related to the expert group, including the minutes of the meetings, are public and can be accessed through the Maritime Forum.

4. Ocean literacy

Horizon 2020 has allocated funding for two projects to boost ocean literacy:

  1. Sea Change aims to establish a fundamental “Sea Change” in the way European citizens view their relationship with the sea, by empowering them, as ocean literate citizens, to take direct and sustainable action towards a healthy ocean, healthy communities and ultimately a healthy planet.
  2. Responseable encourages Europeans to take a closer interest in their oceans and to treat them with greater respects and understanding.

Other projects also contribute to ocean literacy such as:

  • 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 was developed to raise awareness of Europe's oceans and seas, in the context of the EU's integrated maritime policy.

More information

Press release: Ten actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills

New agenda for skills: frequently asked questions

Study: Green Jobs in the Blue Economy – A Bottom-up Approach

European Atlas of the Seas


Blueprint for sectoral cooperation on skills: Maritime Technologies