2018 Naval Architecture Employment Review

27 September 2018

Naval Architecture Employment Review | Faststream Recruitment

In what is still a very challenging market for many businesses, we asked:

What is the outlook in employment for new graduates and experienced Naval Architects in 2018?

Are the expectations and ambitions of Naval Architects and employers aligned, or will there be a growing disparity between the two parties?

Global people specialists in maritime and offshore recruitment, Faststream, surveyed 4,500 Naval Architects and 500 employers, from over 100 countries in an attempt to answer these questions. Some very interesting themes were identified, these findings are reported below: 

1. You need to be client-facing

Over 40% of employers surveyed identified ‘client-facing skills’ as the area they expected to see the most prevalent skill shortages. It was also conclusive from our survey that employees who possess natural commercial, client-facing attributes will find their CVs at the top of the pile. 

It was interesting to see that ‘Client-facing skills’ came up as the number one area that employers were concerned about. It was also rated as the most important factor they look for when considering a new hire (out of ten items), ahead of any technical skills.   

Naval Architects reported they were brimming with confidence in this area, but employers recognised it as a future skill shortage. Where has this uncertainty come from? In an industry built on credibility, is this a sign of uncertain times? Given weaker market conditions and uncertainty about future trends, has this encouraged employers to target individuals who can make a stronger impression in front of their customer base? In this climate we can understand that Naval Architects with natural commercial attributes would be seen as strong additions to any business worried about the future.


2. Academic credentials remain important

Whilst employers are focusing heavily on customer facing skills, they continue to look for a high level of ‘academic credentials’ in prospective employees. This was true for both experienced and graduate Naval Architects. Academics were rated as the third most important factor in hiring experienced Naval Architects (out of 10 factors).  Our Recruiters see this every day, described Adam Graves (Associate Director for our Naval Architecture Division), with many employers looking for candidates with 1st class degrees and Masters (MEng) degrees. Not only that but often they’re looking specifically at the institutions where they studied. 

Naval Architects in our employee survey were very confident about their academic qualifications and rated this item as the single highest factor (out of ten) when we asked them about their experience.  Clearly there is unanimous importance placed on academics from both employers and Naval Architects. 


3. ‘Rising stars’ - hiring future leaders low on the agenda 

It was fantastic to see an employee base with self-assurance in their level of management and leadership ability. Employers, however, did not rate it with high priority for their new graduate hires (less than 20% rated it with a high level of importance).

In an Engineering sector such as Naval Architecture, we were astonished to discover that less than 50% of the employers in our survey indicated that they were looking to hire graduates in the next 12 months. Whereas more than 60% confirmed they would be looking for an experienced hire in the same year.

With technology advancing at an alarming rate and with no let-up in sight, in a market saturated by degree qualified engineers, it seems unusual that more companies wouldn’t be looking to bring on fresh graduates into their businesses.

Should more employers not be looking at graduate intakes as future leaders?  Whilst employers are looking for tried and tested, ‘client-facing’ engineers, succession planning (at the graduate level) could be the key to combatting an ageing workforce in what is becoming an increasingly skill short market. Surely as an industry, we should be looking to invest in the future generation in this way?


4. Plug and play hiring

The employers surveyed gave strong indications that they were looking for client-facing employees with specialist ‘plug and play’ skill sets. Adam Graves agreed:

 “This is a hugely specialised market, the employees and employers in this sector are detail orientated engineers. Most companies we work with are highly specialist; even the market sectors they work in have sub-sectors with different specialisms. From a hiring perspective, our clients are typically looking for an exact match on skills and experience“.

It was interesting to see that, in the employee survey we conducted, Naval Architects indicated they would be looking to work for the same type of company if they were looking to change jobs.  For example, from our research, it appears unlikely for a candidate who has predominantly worked in a consultancy setting to want to take the leap and apply for jobs in shipyards.   

We also see employers being very specific in terms of the person specification, almost a ‘wish list’ of attributes. This can mean they feel comfortable in holding out for longer periods in their hiring process to ensure that they hire the perfect ‘plug and play’ candidate. Graves added that his team were seeing an increased ratio of interview to placement, which has caused some frustration in terms of candidate experiences during a recruitment process.

When you combine candidates who are reluctant to change the type of company they work for and an employer who is looking to find the perfect CV, we will potentially continue to see a slow recruitment market. If both candidates and employers alike in this sector were more flexible, it could open the doors to a transfer of skills and knowledge across the industry.


5. Offshore Oil and Gas still hot!

Oil and Gas at the top! As part of our survey, we asked Naval Architects “what vessel types would you be most interested in working with going forwards?” The responses unanimously highlighted the Oil and Gas sectors (‘Offshore Vessels’ and ‘FPSO/FLNG/FSRU’) as attractive.  These vessel types took the number one and number three spots respectively (out of 10 sectors).  We naturally looked at whether our survey demographics showed any bias towards candidates from the Oil and Gas market and discovered this was not the case; moreover, we saw an even distribution across sectors.


6. Attraction to Cruise and Superyachts

Interestingly, the number two spot went jointly to ‘Superyachts’ and ‘Cruise’. Whereas ‘RO-RO’, ‘Container’ and ‘Dry Cargo’ which all scored in the bottom three sectors.  Our experience tells us that the highly specialist nature of the Offshore, Superyacht and Cruise industries are likely to be very attractive to Naval Architects and Engineers, versus the more standard ‘off-the-shelf’ vessel designs in other areas.

With an unrelenting surge in cruise ship orders (now standing at 113, as of 24th July), it is unsurprising that Naval Architects want a piece of the action. We were a little concerned to see employers reporting confidence in attracting cruise ship candidates. In our experience candidates in this sector are becoming more and more scarce.


7. LNG/LPG identified as ‘skill short’ markets

LNG/LPG experience was highly sought after by employers and this proved to be a skill short area from our candidate survey.  Nearly 60% of employers were keen to see LNG/LPG experience in a CV, whereas only 16% of candidates had this knowledge. Further skill shortages were identified in the Oil and Gas sector; namely ‘FPSO/FLNG/FSRU’ experience was highly desirable by employers (66% wanted it). However, only 29% of those surveyed had this experience to offer.

Will employers be able to consider Naval Architects who have experience in other areas; for example Tankers or Offshore (which featured high in candidate experience levels)?  The Tanker market, in particular, was not seen as an attractive sector (only 23% identified it as a vessel type of interest).

It is apparent from our survey that there are significant disconnections between the experience of Naval Architects in the market and the future demand. Most alarming was that high demand vessel types sectors (as rated by employers) were often rated as the lowest areas in terms of candidates’ experience. This was true for the FPSO/FLNG/FSRU, LNG/LPG and Cruise Sectors.

We also saw from our survey that employers were concerned about future skill shortages in Naval Architects’ Design skills; this was also backed up by a lack of confidence from candidates in this area. We suggest that this is linked to the vessel type findings above as more and more specialist design skills across the high demand sectors are required; especially in what is becoming an increasingly more technologically advanced market.


8. Technology issues

Current talk of big data and the digital revolution across many maritime disciplines, particularly Naval Architecture is creating confusion.  Many employees feel short in their knowledge of these applications, backed up by our survey, where out of ten knowledge factors ‘technology and software’ was rated as the second lowest.  On the other hand, employers felt that because this is a contemporary topic – the knowledge must be there. Less than 10% of employers were concerned with a future skill shortage in this area.

Some employers, however, are forward-thinking and rated technology and software knowledge in the top three of their priority areas when recruiting graduates. However, with a smaller number of employers anticipating hiring graduates and Naval Architects evident lack of confidence in this area, we predict storms ahead.


9. A globally mobile workforce

A staggering 80% of candidates confirmed they would relocate globally for the right role. However, although globally mobile, candidates are unlikely to apply for roles that they feel are outside their comfort zone. In particular, with regards to the company type, they would like to work for. We found that candidates have a tendency to look at prospective employers who are of a similar company type to their main experience.

10. A thirst for training

In a sector where academic credentials are high, we were delighted that although our respondents were highly educated, they chose training and development as their primary need. This was rated higher than salary, career progression, work-life balance and company culture. It was refreshing to see that Naval Architects wanted to develop their knowledge

This thirst for knowledge and training was emphasised further by candidates indicating that they would like to see more learning and development offered in skill areas where their aptitude was lower, for example, software and new technology. 

What are employers doing to bridge this training gap? Our evidence is that they are not looking to bring in more graduates, and our research did not indicate that they are planning on implementing more training with their experienced Naval Architects. Are employers pinning the future on finding the small minority who will fit almost identically to their requirements and hold off until they find them? This seems like risky business to us.

Established in 1999, Faststream is a global people specialist recruiter in the Maritime, Shipping and Offshore sectors, with over 100 employees operating from three key maritime locations in the UK, Singapore and North America.  We source hard to find talent for clients across the globe and offer services including permanent recruitment, contract and interim recruitment, payroll services , executive search, benchmarking and salary surveys.

If you would like to discuss this report further, please contact us.