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Silicon Valley mass firings pose hiring opportunities for maritime

24 June 2023
Photo credit: Madhur Chadha on Unsplash

Massive layoffs in the technology sector after a boom in pandemic growth has created a pool of talent for savvy companies to hire from. However, maritime must target its hiring practices and offer attractive job prospects if it is to reap the benefits of workers skilled in big data, AI and future fuels.

In total, about 283,000 people were fired from the technology sector between January 1, 2022, and March 2, 2023, about 68 percent of them in the United States, according to Statista. Major employers carrying out mass firings have included Google, and parent company Alphabet, as well as Amazon, Meta, Dell, IBM and Zoom.

“There is a growing need for people with big data, AI, ESG and future fuels [in maritime]” said Phil Parry, chairman of maritime recruitment company Spinnaker Global. “There are not enough data analysts to meet demand in general, let alone in the maritime industry.”

Despite being in direct competition with multiple sectors for the kind of skills found in Silicon Valley employees, Parry noted there is one camp of employers that demand previous maritime experience “as a prerequisite to any offer of employment”. “The ‘maritime’ bit is often just a comfort blanket and sometimes masks a leadership failure to win over and communicate what’s really needed to existing staff,” he said.

Robert Palin, a former Tesla employee and MD of Spaera, a green shipping technology start-up, said the skills found in Silicon Valley could bring innovative solutions to streamline operations that are still often worked out on paper, like loading ferries. Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley workers could do “real work in the real world” and gain a host of valuable skills.

“I think the Silicon Valley types would be really useful in enabling some of the physical practical elements of shipping operations with relatively trivial tools,” he said. “However, shipping may need to get over a mindset that only shipping can develop this technology. Many solutions exist on the App store already and you just need to hire someone that can edit a few lines of code and adjust it to your needs.” 

There is a need to communicate the value of shipping to non-traditional hires, stressed Palin. “If people realise how instrumental [shipping] is to the functioning of modern society that may get them excited. For me it was the opportunity to solve big problems: we need to get shipping off of fossil fuels. I had a set of skills in aerodynamics, how wind and airflow works, and I thought, “I can use that in the maritime space.””

Parry noted that in the current job-seekers market the maritime industry must “improve its proposition as an attractive employer”. Employees are choosing jobs that fulfil a purpose, while organisations must have a clear mission to attract and retain talent, said Parry.   “We’re increasingly a promoter of maritime and a poacher from non-maritime,” he said. “Finding the right person is usually not the challenge – it’s selling the industry over and above the other opportunities people have – and believe me they have lots.”