The global maritime industry is undergoing a very challenging period with industry stakeholders opting for automation of their business operations as much as possible. As the industry pushes further for technological advancement, for many branches it has been very difficult to employ people, especially when it comes to the new generations who don’t seem to be that attracted by the business. What is more, finding people with the right qualities and experience has become quite a challenge.
We wanted to find out more about the recruitment process in the maritime industry and trends in bringing people to the sector from across the world so we spoke to a recruitment specialist from Middle Point.
Middle Point is a Dutch recruitment and contracting company, with a strong focus on the maritime industry, founded in 2007. The company takes care of the entire registration and relocation process for its clients.
The spectrum of its activities includes the shipbuilding industry, luxury yacht building, the offshore industry and hydraulic engineering.
Some 60 % of people working for the company are foreigners (non-Dutch). This year the company had workers employed from 27 nationalities, ranging from the South Eastern Europe to Canada.
In an exclusive interview for World Maritime News, Middle Point’s Partner Consultant Maarten van Haren spoke about the experiences and trends in recruiting for the maritime industry.
WMN: What professions are currently most sought after within the industries that you cover?
Maarten van Haren: “There is a structural shortage of engineers and people with the technical expertise, even with respect to manual labour. It is interesting now to see the government and universities working on getting the young people enthusiastic about becoming an engineer. However, this has not been a very popular profession for a very long time, hence there is a huge shortage in various types of engineering branches. In particular these relate to naval architects, marine engineers, installation and project engineers even mechanical engineers. There is a gap, even with the new graduates coming, as those are still inexperienced workers and you have to replace the engineers who are retiring.”
Speaking of the most and least active maritime sectors, Maarten van Haren said that shipbuilding and yacht building in the Netherlands is still booming. However, offshore wind seems to be a less attractive industry.
WMN: Could you guide us through the usual recruitment process, both from an employee’s, as well as an employer’s perspective?
Maarten van Haren: “The process of globalization and availability of job vacancies through all the tools to post jobs and channels through which jobs are posted have made it more difficult for a company to present their job. This has also made it more difficult for candidates to find the jobs that are interesting to them.
For example, with us there are 14 commercial consultants in the company. We have a hundred people working at our clients.
So, how can one expect a company with 2 recruiters in its Human Resources department to hire 100 people.
In addition to media, these companies rely on specialized recruitment companies like ourselves both for permanent positions as for temporary positions. On the other hand, for candidates, it is much easier to find jobs through us as the choice is narrowed down for them.”
“The ideal scenarios when we have somebody come here is to have three interviews so that the candidates get to choose, because it is not up to us to decide on which job to take. We like to see and present ourselves as a platform to the Western European maritime industry.
We recently opened an office in Hamburg since it is one of the hubs in the Western Europe and more offices will follow in the coming years for the people all over the world who want to join booming and technology-driven maritime industry in Western Europe.”
WMN: How much of your portfolio is taken up by executive level positions, and how much is taken up by middle and lower level positions?
Maarten van Haren:” It is hard to say. With branch specialists the employability rates are really higher. We have also recorded a tendency toward consultancy positions since jobs that require detailing are more outsourced to other countries. What we see is that especially bigger companies in the Netherlands outsource from their subidiaries in other countries most of the work as they can as it is obviously much cheaper.”
WMN: What are the underlying risks you as a company face in the recruitment process?
Maarten van Haren: “The risk is always that people do not perform as expected as they turn out not to be the right person for the job. However, that risk is present on all sides, because a recruited person embarks on a new adventure whereas our clients face the risks of hiring someone through an agency. Everyone takes a risk in the beginning. As a result, if something goes wrong our relationship with the clients might also suffer. There are also situations that people do not stick to agreements made.“
WMN: What is the worst case scenario that could happen during or after the recruitment process, and do you have a contingency plan for such occurrences?
Maarten van Haren: “Worst case scenario is when people change their minds and don’t take the job. Imagine a person coming from the United States, and since we refund all travelling expanses, we are talking about 1500 euros for coverage of start-up costs just for an interview.
Our company’s policy is to outline the offer clearly even before somebody boards a plane. Nevertheless, people have to agree on the outline of the offer and things change. We always stick to our word and refund the costs, but people tend to change their minds asking for different conditions, a double salary, and it is there where conversation ends for us since our clients don’t appreciate that.”
WMN: How do you recruit your own staff, and how important is it for you that your employees have certain professional background in the maritime industry?
Maarten van Haren: “Finding people with a passion for recruiting and maritime industry who are at the same time interested in doing this job for a long-term is not an easy job.
It is interesting to note that it is easier for us to find really good people for other companies. However, when we are looking for consultants for our own business we are actually looking for people who are enthusiastic about engineering, who have knowledge about the things our clients are working on and who are willing to learn their share about the technology. Having a maritime background is not a prerequisite.”
WMN: What has been the best learning experience in your job?
Maarten van Haren: “The best learning experience I took from my job is that no matter how well you think you know people things can always turn out differently. The best thing you can do is never think that you know it all because you don’t. You have to be aware of all the scenarios and know that there will always be one that you never counted on. So it comes down to being flexible and true to what you believe in. It is a highly competitive business and as such some people will not always play by the rules. You have to be aware of that but not follow that kind of practices.
There is an interesting fact about our company in that we have people working for us from all over the world. Often, it is people with an interesting life story that had the guts to leave their country. And these people don’t come just to make money and leave, they mostly come to stay looking for a better future for them and their family. You see people come in their early twenties and now, five years later, they developed into professionals with a family and a life here in the Netherlands. Therefore, basically we are offering a new life to them.”
World Maritime News Staff