On March 1, 2021, the online Workshop on "Technical training and education in the shipbuilding and ship repair sector" was successfully held within the framework of the project MATES. The meeting was organized by the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT) with the support of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Insular Policy and in collaboration with the University of Piraeus and the Port Training Institute “EXANTAS” in the context of their tripartite cooperation. The meeting was attended by representatives of the PCCI, the Ministry, the Association of Craftsmen-Employers Machinists of Piraeus, the Panhellenic Association of Ship Suppliers, the Association of Shipbuilding Companies (SENAVI) as well as from the Port Training Institute “EXANTAS” and the University of Piraeus.
The purpose of the meeting was to inform about the progress and the results of MATES and the design of a pilot technical training seminar addressing the shipbuilding and ship repair industry emphasizing on green and digital technologies. In this context, the MATES research project and all performed actions so far were presented to the attendees along with the process followed for analyzing the supply and demand of skills through a questionnaire survey addressed to companies and a series of interviews with experts with many years of experience in the shipbuilding sector. Subsequently, the main project results regarding the skills shortages in the shipbuilding sector as well as the mismatch between the needs of the industry and the supply of skills were then reviewed. Furthermore, the main technical occupational profiles recognized by previous studies were presented, supplemented with additional professions identified through the MATES project together with the most prominent green technologies on the shipbuilding sector in order to examine their impact in terms of training and skills.
The ministry representatives pointed out the importance of the human factor in the effort to revive and improve the domestic shipbuilding and ship repair industry. The Ministry, in collaboration with PCCI and other stakeholders in the region of Piraeus, is examining the development of targeted programs for the training and certification of both unemployed persons and shipbuilding / ship repair workers following the successful implementation of similar PCCI programs in the recent past. For this reason, the results of the MATES project can significantly contribute to the development of such programs through the detailed and accurate mapping of the industry needs, especially in the context of the coming submission of the Ministry’s proposal under the 2021-2027 National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) that specifically address similar actions. The proposed MATES Pilot Experience can be linked also to other innovative initiatives of the Ministry which are aimed towards a greener and digital shipping forming in that way the road map for developing the appropriate training mechanisms that will support the supply of a highly trained and qualified workforce in various blue economy sectors.
Furthermore, participants from the EXANTAS Port Training Institute stressed that the MATES findings regarding the mapping of occupational profiles are essential to the design of relevant training programs and for establishing the appropriate mechanisms for their implementation.
At the same time, the business community representatives and other stakeholders underlined the valuable outcomes that MATES has generated so far and focused on the conditions prevailing in the industry nowadays as it is very important to successfully recognize the current status and identify the companies’ needs. A typical example is the lack of certification programs and the classification of qualifications for crucial shipbuilding professions such as fitters in addition to the overall lack of training in soft skills. Particular emphasis was given to the importance of linking the industry with education for enabling the acquisition of more practical and technical knowledge as well as the adoption of an appropriate work culture by the workforce.
Moreover, they highlighted the long time needed to train an employee for reaching the desired level of experience and the need to provide incentives for the development of infrastructure that will properly support green technologies. On the other hand, several participants focused on the risk to the industry’s viability by the potential loss of valuable workforce due to retirement and to this end appropriate replacement and knowledge transfer mechanisms should be developed for the effective preparation of younger workers.
Finally, the need for evaluation in order to determine the comparative advantages of the country was also mentioned together with the importance of new technologies to the shipbuilding sector and for this reason efforts have already begun by the industry to create an innovation center to explore employment scenarios in conjunction with innovative technologies.
The Workshop completed with all participants expressing their commitment to support the MATES pilot activity and a brief presentation of European Commission’s PACT for SKILLS, the new initiative aimed at utilizing resources and providing incentives to all relevant stakeholders for the implementation of actions on skills upgrading and retraining of the workforce.