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Jobs still a challenge for naval architects

The Naval Architect: October 2016

We have all seen the news over the past 18 months about the troubles facing the offshore and newbuild sectors and you do not need to look far to read about the horror stories which are being published on a daily basis. This has understandably had a huge effect on recruitment throughout the maritime industry and it has been no different for naval architects.

Whilst there are pockets of opportunities available for naval architects, such as the cruise sector, caution has become the watchword for many maritime businesses and employees alike. During this time there has been a distinct change in candidate dynamics and the way in which companies are approaching recruitment and this is having a direct impact on recruitment.

Faststream CEO Mark Charman takes a detailed look at the changing approach to recruitment across the sector.

Different companies, different approaches…
Faststream can report a 50% decrease in naval architect positions available on our books when we compare the first half of 2016 to the same period last year. Whilst this may paint a very grim picture, this can be attributed to the change in how companies are recruiting staff. We personally are seeing far less volume in terms of the amount of roles we are working, but we are working strategically with companies on far more senior and strategic roles than we have previously seen. Likewise, some businesses are finding it easier to attract new recruits themselves and companies are falling into one of three camps:

Company one: ‘The distressed purchase’
These companies have a recruitment requirement and they need a solution…yesterday. Someone has been fired, someone has left or due to unforeseen circumstances a vacancy has come up and it needs filling quickly. These companies will write a generic advert and advertise this vacancy on industry job boards, put it on their own website and approach candidates on CV databases. They are looking for a high quality of applications and will interview large numbers of candidates.

Company two: ‘Active but selective’
These companies have a developed recruitment process and a joined up approach to bringing in talent. They may have an in-house recruitment function and will likely use multiple external recruiters which can lead to lots of duplicate CV’s landing on the hiring managers’ desk from the multiple sources they are working with. They will be looking for the best talent in a very small pool of candidates, often leading to vacancies becoming left open for a long period of time. They will however be quick off the mark when they find what they are looking for.

Company three: ‘Employer of choice’
These companies will have recruitment and retention at the top of their agenda. Their employer brand is important to them and they will have a well-defined candidate proposition, with thought to why someone would leave their job to come and join them. They will usually work exclusively with one recruitment partner, typically a sector specialist, who will act as their eyes and ears in the marketplace. They will very rarely advertise vacancies, favouring a headhunting approach to finding talent. These companies are looking for very specific hires, will be very selective with the candidates they bring in for interview and will be unwilling to compromise.

Each of these approaches will come with its pros and cons, and if you are a candidate looking for a new role then you will need to take time to understand how different businesses are approaching recruitment and think about which company is right for you and your career. The best positions are more difficult to secure, and this is certainly the case for naval architects in the current climate.

A changing candidate dynamic… 
Whilst the downturn has led to changing tactics from employers, there has also been a distinct change in candidate dynamics and with this, the creation of three very specific candidate types.

Candidate one: ‘Out of work and active’
These people are feeling the increasing pressure of being out of work and are desperately looking for new roles. They are searching job boards, recruiter websites and companies’ own careers sections for new roles on a daily basis. Companies will be getting regular applications and speculative emails from these people and they will be applying for positions which are not always relevant to their skills and experience.

Candidate two: ‘In work and active’
These people are riding out the storm with their current employer, but have begun to keep a closer eye on new opportunities as they return from their summer breaks. They have become increasingly selective about what they apply for and in most cases will expect to be approached professionally about new opportunities, often being notified prior to positions coming onto the open market. They feel extremely nervous about job security and are in fear of their current employer finding out – subsequently they are staying under the radar and are often only visible through their own professional networks. Money is playing a key part in their motivations to move roles as they may not have seen the salary increases of ‘yesteryears’ in recent times. The reward must outweigh the risk of moving jobs in these uncertain times.

Candidate three: ‘Passive’
They are happy, paid well, valued and being bear-hugged by their employer. The thought of a new job will probably not even be on their radar. They are in demand, extremely difficult to find and will not share their details in the public domain.

Challenging times do not necessarily make recruitment easier. In fact, recruitment has become even more difficult than before for many businesses as the talent they look for becomes increasingly passive.

What next for naval architecture recruitment?
Many businesses employing naval architects have become much more optimistic about their hiring strategy in recent months and we are pleased to report positive signs in the marketplace. Organisations are more proactive in adding vital skills to their business and areas such as the cruise sector are actively hiring as the competition to create bigger and better vessels increases.

However, for many naval architects, such as those from the offshore sector, the struggle will continue. These people are looked upon as risky hires on the marine side as employers believe they will return to offshore and the money offered in that area, when the market returns.

My advice to businesses and employees – recognise and embrace the changing landscape and define who you are and what you want. In these changing times recruitment is not only more difficult, it is also very different.

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