A new employability project in Cornwall is hoping to help counter a problematic skills gap in the marine sector.
The latest research from British Marine reveal that although 2015/2016 revenues in the marine sector grew by 1.6%, to £3.01bn, their members reported a skills gap pertaining primarily with soft skills as a future potential growth barrier.
In a bid to ensure future employees in the sector have real-world skills, a group at Falmouth Marine School have taken part in the building of a 15ft skiff for a client, with a focus on the softer skills relating to client engagement.
Steve Taylor, from Falmouth Marine School, who is spearheading the new employability project, said having worked in the industry for many years he was “aware of the skills gap issue and wanted to help tackle it”.
“There are nearly 900 marine businesses in Cornwall and 255 of these are in Falmouth and Penryn, so the importance of upskilling couldn’t be clearer,” he explained.
“The boat builders are highly skilled in their craft, but can lack the necessary communication skills when dealing with customers, which is why at the Marine School we always include live projects alongside the course, to help address this potential issue and to further develop our learners.”
Steve said that the softer skills component of the course will now carry credits and become part of the employability module and core delivery of the programme.
Nathan Percival from Mylor Yacht Harbour’s Marine Team welcomed the recognition of the importance of softer skills in students entering the workforce.
“Communication with customers is vital in providing a quality service which is why we value our training links that we have in partnership with Cornwall College so we can ensure that these softer skills are developed on the way,” he said.
“Introducing clients to the students at Falmouth Marine School and ensuring a project is seen through to the end is a great way in helping these students become work ready.”
Matt Smitheran, 18, previously from Mullion School said the project had been “a fantastic experience”.
“On the boatbuilding course we learn all the various boatbuilding and composite skills, but to put them all together and build a boat is really rewarding,” he said.
“We have had lots of opportunities to engage with live projects alongside my course. For me the best project was building a prototype of a brand new designed sailboat and ensuring that live projects is a core part of the course is a really good idea.”
Project lead, technician and composites expert, Simon Combe, said he was delighted with the reception the employability project received from both learners and clients.
“We would like to see this grow and are welcoming clients to speak with us about having students work with them to create fantastic boats and parts,” he said.
“This will ensure that not only will the clients have a great product, our students will be work ready, used to the latest techniques and equipped with some of the soft skills, such as communication that are so vital in their future careers.”
Watch the build in the clip below.
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