Can apprenticeships play a role in safety systems and culture?

As part of Maritime Safety Week 2022, we invited David Tournay, Secretary of the  Maritime Skills Alliance, to give his thoughts on how skills and apprenticeship development can compliment safety procedures in ports. Our thanks to David and MSA for their time and assistance.

David Tournay
David Tournay,
Secretary of Maritime Skills Alliance

Ever thought about apprenticeships and their use in your business?  .  Think of ‘apprenticeships’ and I bet the first image that comes in to many people’s minds is of a middle aged man wearing a blue boiler suit and working on a lathe.  The apprentice stands behind him – again male and wearing the obligatory blue boiler suit, but this time holding a cup of tea!

OK Ok, it’s a stereotype that unfortunately still persists in certain quarters. But look at apprenticeships again, and we can see that they are in fact programmes of learning that can play a significant role in improving workplace performance and underpinning programmes designed to reinforce skills and knowledge associated with safe operation and the management of risk. 

In the marine sector, we have a growing portfolio of apprenticeships that can be used across a range of educational levels and job roles.    In the ports sector, there are two apprenticeships that are particularly relevant:

 Time to completeLevelFunding that can be accessed by employer:
Port operative12 months2£8000
Port marine operations officer24 months4£12,000

Look at the content in more detail and we can see that both place a great emphasis on safety related knowledge and skills. 

For the Port Operative apprenticeship, individuals are required to demonstrate knowledge and skills related to:

Knowledge requirements:

  • Safe and professional working practices; including legislation, statutory operating regulations, industry procedures and safety requirements and instructions, understanding the types of hazard that may be encountered in a port, the health and safety control measures that are in place to manage risks. Understand industry agreed rules and regulations for safe and efficient port operations. Understand the responses to incidents and emergencies, emergency procedures for making the port safe and adhere to corporate policies on environmental protection, security (including but not limited to customs and terror related incidents), ethics, equality and diversity.

Skills requirements:

  • Keep themselves and others safe by adhering to safe working practices: Understand and comply with statutory regulations, organisational safety and security requirements, with or without supervision. These will include implementing the requirements of the safety management system, operating plant and/or equipment, compliance with security (including but not limited to customs and terror related incidents), monitoring the activities and whereabouts of individuals within the vicinity of operations and taking appropriate action to address any unsafe situations, protect others, and correctly use safety equipment.

To demonstrate thorough competency, the apprentice is assessed by an individual who has direct experience within the industry and can make reliable and concise judgments.

Likewise, the Level 4 apprenticeship covers safety issues with a similar level of depth but, of course, focusing on these issues with a vessel operation focus:

Knowledge requirements

  • relevant health, safety and security legislation such as: Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, etc.
  • port marine responsibilities, statutory powers, duties and codes (including Port Marine Safety Code and Guide to Good Practice)

Skills requirements:

  • safely steer, manoeuvre, navigate and crew different types of marine craft, such as: safely moor and unmoor vessels of a range of type and size
  • safely handle loads manually and mechanically, including mooring lines, cargo, stores, etc.
  • demonstrate personal water safety around the harbour and sea survival skills
  • pilot boats, work boats, survey boats, etc.
  • safe management of vessel operations within harbours

Taken on their own, developing such skills and knowledge is of course beneficial to the individual. Taken at an organisational level, then the development of these competencies in a pro-active and structured way across teams ensures that safety measures are consistently applied. 

Implementing apprenticeships is not the easiest activity to manage.  However, the rewards can be dramatic.  In our role at the Maritime Skills Alliance (MSA), we can assist and help share experience and know-how as to how it can be done.  The MSA was formed 10 years ago with a remit to bring together different parts of the marine industry in order that experience and activity related to skills development can be shared.  We welcome the opportunity to share that experience with you.