Life at sea conjures up romantic images of challenge and discovery – a spirit of adventure that undoubtedly attracted 24-year-old Alexis Cimo (pictured) to set his sights on a nautical career.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been fascinated by the nautical world,” says Alexis. “I had a particular interest in the mysteries of wooden and metal shipbuilding.”
That dream came a step closer to reality when Alexis visited a career fair in Marseille, where he discovered the SiYouSud course organised by the Campus for marine-related professions and skills (CMQ 4MeD), supported by the University of Toulon. On joining the five-month pre-qualification course, he was introduced to various marine maintenance and shipbuilding career options.
The course also introduced him to professional practice, real work experience, and navigation, blending traditional nautical skills with modern digital applications. It also helped him to develop interpersonal and other soft skills through group workshops, individual coaching sessions, and team outings with like-minded young people.
Today Alexis is a student on the industrial welding and boiler-making vocational training course at the UIMM SUD Training Centre (a member of the CMQ 4MeD consortium), and is also serving his apprenticeship at INTRA MAR (a subsidiary of the French container transportation and shipping company CMA-CGM), in the Port of Marseille.
Alexis’s training course is due to end in December and should be a springboard to sustainable employment in the industry.
"My lifelong dream has been to own a boat and sail the oceans of the world," says Alexis. "Thanks to the CMQ 4MeD project, that dream is so much closer to reality."
Celebrating Vocational Education and Training
Alexis’s story is just one of many that will be celebrated at this year’s European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW), which takes place from 16 to 20 May 2022. The Week will also highlight innovative projects like CMQ 4MeD and the work they are doing to inspire young people across Europe to build successful careers through enhanced Vocational Education and Training (VET).
The theme of this year's EVSW is ‘VET and the Green Transition’, which aligns with the European Commission's vision of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Plugging the skills gap in the Blue Economy
Alexis will be joining a workforce of 120,000 people with jobs directly linked to the sea and coastal areas across the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of Southern France.
The region is home to busy commercial ports, including Marseille, which accommodates nearly 10,000 ships and handles 79 million tonnes of goods, Toulon, which is Europe’s largest military harbour and home to the CMQ, and numerous prestigious marinas dotted along the coast surrounding Nice and Monaco.
Despite this, the region has struggled to attract young talent to work in the ‘Blue Economy’.
The skills gap is particularly acute in industries like fishing, where the next generation of workers is failing to replace an ageing workforce.
It’s believed the diverse nature of the maritime industry, which also includes businesses linked to tourism, shipping, and aquaculture, has led to a lack of clarity and attractiveness in the sector for young people considering their career options.
Working with a consortium of 18 partners and an overall budget of €6.5 million, the CMQ 4MeD project seeks to challenge this perception and help to readdress the skills shortage in the region by supporting 500 new apprenticeships.
Promoting green and digital skills at sea
With the world’s seas and oceans on the frontline of both the green and technological revolutions, the CMQ is working with its partners to adapt its training programmes to respond to future challenges brought by the green and digital transition.
In one project, the CMQ is working with the SeaTech school of engineering to create training programmes around new technologies for processing maritime data. Technologies like this will help marine organisations reduce fuel consumption and gas emissions, helping the industry work towards its ultimate goal of zero carbon emissions.
Highlighting the importance of the CMQ’s green and digital technology projects, Bernard Beigner, the Rector of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Academic Region, said, "Fields of activity such as shipbuilding and maintenance need qualifications adapted to current technological developments.
Furthermore, the success of the partnerships established by the CMQ 4MeD project with the economic players in the sector will encourage the implementation of innovative training, particularly in the digital sector."
Find out more
The work done by organisations like the CMQ, providing access to vocational education and training, is vital to equip young people with the skills they need in today's rapidly evolving job market.
Moreover, this investment in young people benefits the industries supporting local communities, protecting jobs, and safeguarding future prosperity.
As a member of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, CMQ 4MeD has made a series of pledges to increase the supply and quality of apprenticeships.
To learn more about how the CMQ and its CMQ 4MeD project is helping young people to train for modern careers in the maritime industry, visit their profile on the European Commission’s website.
This article has been published in France’s Economie Matin.