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Propeller Club London March Luncheon

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L to R David Randell,  Adrian McCourt, Adam Corney and Ian Millen

L to R David Randell, Adrian McCourt, Adam Corney and Ian Millen

Topical Discussion and Lively Debate! 

The London Propeller Club’s March luncheon, held at The Naval Club in Mayfair, proved to be an occasion for interesting topical discussion and lively debate; together with excellent networking.

Club President, Commander Ian Millen RN, took great pleasure in introducing three new members, Emma Buckels, Richard Bird and Barry Pettit. He was especially delighted to welcome Emma as the first, hopefully of many, student members to the Club. Ian also welcomed two guests to the luncheon – Adrian McCourt, Managing Director of Watkins Superyachts; and Guest Speaker, Adam Corney, Commercial Director of the Marine Learning Alliance (MLA).

Adam began his career as a submarine officer with the Royal Navy in 1989, before coming ashore in 2000 to set up and run Marine South West, a not-for-profit company, concerned with business development of the marine sector. In 2011 he moved to Plymouth University as Marine Commercial Director and, subsequently, joined the MLA in 2014.

Adam began by explaining how the MLA provides e-learning for mariners and seafarers, with the focus aimed at those serving at sea or those who have recently come back ashore.  It started out as a business unit of Plymouth University in 2012, before becoming established as a spin-out company in 2014, as a wholly owned subsidiary of IMarEST.

Their degree course is a mix of video lectures, with transcripts and exercises; coupled with support from a personal tutor. The course is workplace learning and takes between 2 – 3 years to complete, on a part-time basis. All those who are successful, earn a degree under the auspices of Plymouth University.

Additionally, the MLA run a number of short, flexible e-learning courses; also working with companies to run bespoke courses. As an example, Adam cited the work they are doing with Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, who realised that their Marine Superintendents would benefit from the Leadership & Management Course, to help hone their ‘soft skills’. They see the ROI as the retention of good staff and improved customer service; which is interesting when compared to companies whose approach is very much short –sighted, in that they provide basic qualifications and no more.

Adam said it has become apparent that there is a need to translate the experience and technical skills/qualifications into requirements for shore-based jobs and careers. It is essential to break down the barriers and prepare people to come ashore. Part of their solution to this, in partnership with the IMarEST, is for a Master’s ticket or CoC to count towards a degree – and, as each applicant is assessed individually, they can evaluate everyone on a personal basis. An added advantage for students is that they receive free membership of the IMarEST, which gives them access to their virtual library and other vital resources.

Those present were impressed that the app works independently to the internet; so students can download their modules before going to sea, work at sea offline, then download their work once back ashore; a big plus point when seafarers still have limited access to the internet.

There are currently 250 students from 50 countries taking the course and, with a large number of these not having English as their first language, which shows that there is a global desire for this type of upskilling.

It was interesting to hear that there is almost a 50/50 split between companies sponsoring employees, and mariners paying to self-educate. Some people in the room questioned whether or not it was in a company’s interest to train someone and give them the skillset to go elsewhere, also whether it was the best use of your crew’s time to be encouraging them to take on ‘extra work’ whilst they were fully employed at sea; but there was a stronger feeling that, if you don’t train people and take an interest in their development, they may well go to a company that does. Also, if you don’t train your staff, you are only as good as the people you employ?!

The general consensus in the room was that, anything that helps people to prepare for life after working at sea, and feel valued, can only be good.

Ian thanked Adam for travelling up from Cornwall to speak at the luncheon, and for triggering such an interesting and lively debate. Ian reiterated that, anything that helps to engender employee loyalty, can only be good; technology is the way ahead and the MLA elearning scheme is definitely a step in the right direction – certainly better than the ‘correspondence course’ of yesteryear!

We look forwarding to welcoming everyone to the next Propeller Club Luncheon, on Wednesday 20th April at the Naval Club, Mayfair.

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