The skilled workforce of tomorrow

Across a number of platforms, there is a renewed focus on ensuring we have the skills and training needed for a thriving Port of London.

PLA skills academyTraining for the future – learning skills afloat.

Who will be the boat masters, barge crews, VTS operators, pilots, hydro- graphers, crane drivers, marine engineers or logistics specialists of tomorrow – and where will they come from?

If there’s one issue that’s really focusing minds on the Thames, it is this: as the Port of London continues to expand and grow, we need to attract, recruit, train and re-train the right people to work across the marine and logistics sector. And we need to ensure that there are enough of them.

From apprentices to graduates, from training centres to the Thames Skills Academy, there has been a concerted effort to step up all forms of training on the river.

The PLA has taken on a record number of apprentices in the past two years, including most recently three marine, two mechanical/electrical, one building trades and one finance apprentice.

“What stands out for me is that our apprentices are so enthusiastic and glad to be here and getting on with things – they are really positive people,” says director of marine operations Peter Steen.

The Thames Skills Academy (TSA) has brought together marine employers on the river to develop and provide for their training needs and promote career opportunities on the Thames.

As a recognised Group Training Association (GTA), it is able to speak on behalf of a wide range of employers working on the tidal Thames, and has significant influence and impact because of this.

Chris Livett, who is on the TSA board, says: “We have put 12 new apprentices through over the past 14 months and hope for them to be qualified in 2019. We are also working hard on our Trailblazer Apprenticeships. Meanwhile, the TSA is looking to get established as a permanent fixture, confirming London as a major training hub and respected leader in the field.”

During National Apprenticeship Week in March 2018, the TSA held its annual event aimed at inspiring people to consider a working life on the Thames. Guest speakers included former shipping minister John Hayes and the retired British rower and Olympic gold medallist Andrew Triggs-Hodge.

Guests met training and apprenticeship providers, including the river bus operator MBNA Thames Clippers, marine logistics experts Livett’s, marine construction specialist Red 7 Marine and, of course, the PLA.

Tilbury training suite

In October 2018, an innovative training suite for veterans was opened at the Port of Tilbury.

Located within the old railway station at the London Cruise Terminal, the new training and technology suite includes two training simulators, from CM Labs and Tenstar; these provide full simulation of all the major crane and straddle carrier operational equipment, providing users with a learning environment featuring industrial controls and realistic working terminal scenarios.

The simulators were very popular at an Opportunity Thurrock event held at the terminal, which attracted more than 2,000 young people from the area to come and find out about career opportunities.

The Port of Tilbury has an established Logistics Training Academy within the port estate, which provides – amongst its programmes – training and support to the veteran community. An ‘Attention to Logistics’ training programme and bursary scheme was launched in 2017 by the Tilbury on the Thames Trust, with the academy, to help ex-service men and women and their families back into work through the logistics sector.

Boatmaster’s Licence

The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames encourages training for the Boatmaster’s Licence.

Apprentices can attend revision sessions at Watermen’s Hall before their exams; a study group focuses in particular on chart work, passage planning and ship management, topics which are often the biggest challenge for apprentices. The sessions also cover the basics of vessel handling, buoyage, lights, shapes and collision prevention regulations.

Those who are not able to take up apprenticeships can obtain a Boatmaster’s Licence through training schemes run by the Company of Watermen.

Trainees and apprentices who meet the very highest standards can gain a Waterman’s Certificate and ‘freedom’ to operate on the Thames as a Journeyman, while those who have worked in the towage industry can also gain a Lighterman’s Certificate. The Company also offers training in skills such as barge driving and sailing.

Feature Film

A new film, Careers at the PLA, was premiered at Skills London 2018, an event held at the Excel in London in November. The six-minute film shows how several of the PLA’s staff launched careers in the marine industry, and explains the steps they took to do so.

PLA skills academyShowcasing opportunity – PLA at Skills London

More than 30,000 young people aged 15 to 24 attended Skills London 2018 – so this was a perfect audience for the PLA’s message.