Filling the gap: possible needs in terms of blue careers
Blue Economy is the concept by which the European Union refers to the use of seas and coasts for economic activities, and Blue Growth is the European Union’s long-term strategy for the expansion of these activities in a planned way. In addition, Blue Growth implies sustainability to support the sustainable growth of the marine and maritime sectors as a whole. Blue Growth strategies include a relevant premise, healthy marine ecosystems are more productive (and therefore more conducive to the Blue Economy) than unhealthy ecosystems, so this growth must be carried out considering the conservation of seas and oceans and long-term sustainability. The Blue Economy in the EU represents approximately 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross value added of almost 500 billion euros per year.
Traditionally the activities that have generated and continue to generate Blue Economy are shipbuilding and ship repair, offshore oil and gas, fisheries and Transport Cargo and ferries.
It will soon be 10 years since the European Commission identified five high potential sectors in the Blue Growth strategy and set the objective of strengthening the employment and growth potential of Europe’s coasts and seas. The five sectors identified and enhanced were:
- Ocean energy (renewable: wind, waves, tides, etc.).
- Marine biotechnology (medicines, industrial enzymes, etc.)
- Coastal and maritime tourism (coastal tourism, cruise tourism, yachting)
- Aquaculture (fish, shellfish, marine plants farming)
- Seabed mining (mineral resources)
European coasts and seas have the potential to deliver growth and jobs in the coming years. To achieve Blue Growth, highly qualified and skilled professionals are needed. Blue Economy sectors are experiencing difficulties in finding the right employees – and most sectors expect these difficulties to continue soon.
Already identified gaps and needs:
- a skills gap between education offers and labour market needs, especially with regards to technological developments and innovation.
- a lack of communication and cooperation between education and industry.
- a lack of attractiveness and awareness of career opportunities in the blue economy.
- lack of ocean literacy culture.
Then, what has happened? Why, as despite being the optimal scenario and aligned with the strategies set by the European Union, there is still a lack of professionals to carry the strategy forward?
There has probably been a gap in training, and it is probably also quite identified.
On the one hand, High Schools have been incorporating or are working to incorporate knowledge on the lines set by the EU, so it is possible to find certain marinization of the syllabus, gaining on-site skills, concepts and knowledge related to Ocean Literacy, Blue Schools, European Marine Strategy, or their national transpositions and environmental values of the Natura 2000 marine network.
On the other hand, there is the Labor Market that has a demand for basic competencies, experience, fieldwork, accreditations and certifications, sustainability criteria and alignment of its activity with SDGs and European Marine Strategy. In this scenario, the European Union has done its work approving Directives, Strategies, Roadmaps, Projects, and funds for incorporation into the labor market.
Probably the problem is centered in the years prior to accessing this labor market, as universities have not filled the gap or have not been allowed to advance from a High School (with incipient but still certain initiatives explaining what was being done). Reviewing curricula of different universities that offer degrees related to Biology, Environmental Sciences, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Marine Sciences, and masters of specialization in Aquaculture, Biodiversity, Microbiology, Ecology, Management and Restoration of habitats, Oceanography… in every one of them, there is a lack of specific training focused on the emerging labor market that calls for Blue Growth, moreover, in many of them it is not even explained in what marine field the European Union wants to move and moves.
In this sense, the solution to fill the gap should focus on:
- Creating specific training degrees / postgraduate degrees outside formal education.
- Create their own specific training degrees between the stakeholders.
- Establish a dialogue to identify training needs not only with business owners but also with their customers.
- Achieve common ground between the EU Guidelines / Roadmaps and the academic sector responsible for developing curricula and core competencies (teaching plans).
- Adjust the implementation schedules of new degrees, masters and careers according to the EU Blue Growth priority sectors.
Future is likely to be marine, and sustainable, and there is potential to do things right, and besides, we have to keep in mind that the Blue Growth Strategy itself specifies that: “Working in the blue economy also requires familiarity with aspects such as environmental issues”.