According to StatsCan, there are more than 2 million young Canadians between the ages of 15-19. Many of these teens will be at that critical stage of contemplating their future dream job and mapping out how to get there.
But despite the many benefits on offer – great salaries, interesting and varied work, technology-driven – a career in the Canadian marine sector will be an unknown quantity for most of them.
A new survey of Canadian youth confirms that the biggest barrier to recruit new candidates is lack of knowledge of the diversity of jobs available in the marine sector — with (67%) of those in the millennial and Gen Z generations believing the industry is hard to get into and 60% saying they can only think of a few types of jobs.
The National Youth Report: Marine and the Next Generation, which was commissioned by the Canadian Marine Industry Foundation (CMIF) and conducted by Abacus Data, reinforces the need for the public and private sector to accelerate awareness efforts in the face of a looming labour and skills crisis.
“Awareness, as this report shows, is our biggest challenge as well as our biggest opportunity,” says Thomas Aulinger, Chair of the CMIF and Director for the Centre for Marine Training and Research at Georgian College. “The results in this report will help us communicate better, grow awareness, and be better able to provide information and resources to young Canadians through the CMIF’s Imagine Marine campaign.”
Established in 2020, the CMIF was founded by the Chamber of Marine Commerce, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board to promote marine careers. The foundation has expanded its membership since then to include private companies, unions and educational institutions — all with the aim to nationally amplify stakeholder messaging, create campaigns to grow awareness and provide information and resources.
Bruce Burrows, President and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, which sponsored the report, explains, “Companies, educational institutions and unions have mounted ad campaigns but their individual efforts have been insufficient to drive enough candidates into the workforce. Labour shortages are a critical problem for many of our members.”
Canada’s marine sector facing critical shortages
Canada’s marine sector includes over 1,000 employers – both in the private and public sectors — and employs more than 100,000 skilled workers and professionals across Canada.
According to Transport Canada estimates, there were more than 1,200 job vacancies in 2020 onboard commercial vessels and ferries, and many of these were in the most critical areas to keep ships operating such as deck officers and engineers.
In recent years, says Burrows, shortages like these have led to Canadian vessels being pulled out of service for periods of time, resulting in real economic losses. “The problem is expected to only get worse unless real progress is made to attract the next generation of mariners,” he says.
The same estimates by Transport Canada found that 43% of the marine transportation workforce is expected to retire over the next 10 years. There is also the need to replace workers who voluntarily leave the marine sector or who move to shore-based positions. It is projected that there will be a need to hire approximately 19,000 new seafarers over the next 10 years.
Labour shortages have also hit agencies like pilotage authorities and the Canadian Coast Guard, with the public sector often competing for skilled employees from the same, small talent pool. There are also job opportunities in everything from shipping and logistics to ports to marine services to infrastructure management.
The CMIF has built a one-stop, bilingual web information resource for marine careers at imagine-marine. ca, established a Youth Marine Forum and has launched a new series of “day-in-the life” videos featuring young Canadians already working in the sector. Following new fundraising efforts, however, the foundation plans to ramp up its promotional efforts over the coming year.
The CMIF commissioned Abacus Data to conduct the Canada-wide survey of youth from ages 14 to 29 to better understand and provide insights into how to inform and recruit young Canadians and to provide a benchmark to measure its progress.
The survey, released in March 2022, provides an in-depth look into youth perceptions of the marine sector, their knowledge of Canadian marine careers, the job attributes that are most important to them, and the best ways to engage them with career information. It also shows how the marine sector compares to other industries competing for the same talent.
Mario Pelletier, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, commented on the survey’s results. “The Canadian Coast Guard shares many of its goals and core values with this survey’s young respondents from protecting our environment, to enabling the economy, ensuring our health and safety, and representing our society and culture within our workforce. The findings in this report underscore the importance of conveying that the Coast Guard is an inclusive organization, that offers a vast range of challenging and rewarding careers – ready to help develop future maritime teams and leaders.”
Marine eligibility required for federal jobs programs
Beyond driving awareness, however, says Burrows – the industry also has to find ways to overcome some fundamental barriers to accessing government-funded training programs. As a federally- regulated industry, many seafaring jobs are not eligible under Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) employment programs, such as tuition grants or EI benefits while studying for a trade or other recognized employment.
“It would require simple amendments to their policies to include federally regulated employment within them in order to encourage more Canadians to join the ranks of the marine industry by allowing them to receive federal support during their training,” says Burrows. “As an industry, we are also encouraging the ESDC Sectoral Initiative, which helps fund career awareness in many industry sectors, to open up the program to new sectors such as marine.”
Marine and the Next Generation Survey Key Takeaways:
Many young people think highly of the industry, especially when it comes to aligning with their own values.
Just under half of young people are open to considering a career in the marine industry, and 20% have thought about a career in the industry before today and are at least open to pursuing this interest.
The biggest barrier to recruit new candidates is a lack of knowledge of the diversity of jobs available in the marine sector.
Compared to other industries, 69% of respondents believe that the marine industry provides interesting and fulfilling work; 67% believe it offers good pay and benefits; 56% believe that it values corporate/ environmental responsibility; and 57% believe there are lots of opportunities to advance.
Compared to other industries, the marine industry scores lower in the following areas: 40% of respondents believe people like them work in the industry, 42% believe there is good work/life balance in the industry and 47% believe the work is safe.