Diversity is not just a tick box exercise for employers, let’s embrace it!

Maritime UK Week Blog Post from the BPA’s Shenaz Bussawon who has a leading role in the port sector’s engagements through Maritime UK’s Careers activities.

Diversity is not just a tick box exercise for employers, let’s embrace it!

It’s Maritime UK Week and a good time to reflect on the people and careers activities within our sector and how we can improve as a collective. I have now been in the Maritime sector for just over two years and when I joined it was slightly daunting not having a background in the sector. However, the first thing that struck me is how warm and open the UK maritime industry is and the people made me feel really welcome.

I was amazed, and indeed still am, at just how many different sectors there are within the maritime industry and what an important role the sector plays in our daily lives. I don’t think people outside the sector know exactly what the opportunities are to work in this exciting industry.

I am part of the Maritime Careers Hub and the recently established Ethnicity in Maritime initiative, which are both facilitated by Maritime UK. Since joining these I have seen a great connection in the two and how important it is that we bring their aims to broaden diversity and inclusivity in our sector. Attracting more people to think about careers is good for employers too; it means you get more choice from the pool of talent and fresh ideas and perspectives.

Having participated in a number of careers events over the last two years, which had school and college-age youngsters attend, I was sometimes sad when speaking to students from all backgrounds aged from 7 to 17 who had no idea about the abundant career opportunities in maritime. At these events I asked youngsters “What do enjoy and what are you good at?” and if a student said “I like drawing and making things”, I could immediately suggest “You can be an engineer!”. Adding, “Even better be an engineer on a ship and get paid to travel the world while doing what you love!”.

Seeing almost a lightbulb expressive moment on the face of a student made me feel real satisfaction. Being a source of information that could inspire an idea in a young person, has hit home how much I wished I had someone telling me at their age about career prospects within the maritime industry. I know for sure I had no direction from my school & college about career advice but at least I have found the industry now! There is of course great work already done by many maritime bodies in the sector and individually many ports also reach out to schools and stakeholders.

There is still more to be done to inspire young people from all backgrounds. It is important schools and industry have open doors and communicate. With both of these elements, this will lead to greater opportunities for a more diverse future within the maritime industry.

In this new era of social distancing and less physical interaction, we are now looking further at how to engage. It’s helpful at least that the younger generation is so tech-savvy, meaning virtual events should be easy to organise. One thing is clear though; we need to keep getting out there to promote our sector to a diverse range of people who could be the next generation of port and maritime workers.

I might be biased but once people learn more about maritime, it’s an easy sell!