Carry on recruiting: P&O Ferries pays tribute to its apprentices

P&O Ferries is yet another company that is using apprenticeships to recruit deck and engine-room ratings

p and o apprentices 2018

Shipping companies in the UK continue to turn to apprenticeships to tackle the demographic challenges that are affecting the ratings workforce in this country. 

As we’ve highlighted in previous articles, a 16% decrease in the number of non-hospitality ratings is forecast by 2026 compared to the 2016 figure.

What is more, the existing workforce is ageing. Around three-quarters of UK deck and engine ratings are in the 40+ age group. Most are expected to remain in the same job until they retire.

It is critical, therefore, that the UK merchant-navy ratings workforce is rejuvenated by new recruits – and soon. 

The apprenticeship route of vocational training could provide a possible solution to increasing the number of ratings employed in the UK.

P&O Ferries is one such company that is using apprenticeships to do so. The ferry company’s apprenticeship programme looks to recruit deck and engine-room ratings. 

On the 24th of October this year, the company marked the successful completion of deck and engine apprenticeships before an audience of colleagues, families and friends. 

This group of apprentices was the third intake recruited and retained by the company so far. The first commenced a two-year course in 2014, which has so far resulted in 16 former apprentices being employed subsequently within the P&O fleet as either deck or engine room ratings. 

At the ceremony in October, apprentices received their certificates from Captain Volker Heil, Head of Fleet Operations, and Steve Watkins, Curriculum Manager, at North Kent College and were watched by the latest recruits, whose own initial training was due to start in November.

The 2018 intake consists of ten apprentices, who will be trained at the National Maritime Training Centre at North Kent College, under the care and management of Steve Watkins. P&O Ferries and the college have a good understanding and an increasingly strong working relationship that gives apprentices the foundations and theory to then go onboard vessels and work alongside existing teams. 

The strength of the programme grows every year as more apprentices graduate and become P&O Ferries’ next generation of seafarers. Importantly, they are also there to guide and set an example to the new intake. 

The wider industry might like to take note of a company where there is a determination to train up a new generation and allow the brightest and the keenest to rise as far up the ranks as they care to go. 

To this end, there is a strong network of support for the apprenticeship programme from fellow ABs, officers and captains both past and present, all of whom have put their time and authority behind P&O’s apprenticeship programme. This is paying dividends in terms of retention and subsequent employment of ratings. 

This kind of programme requires proper planning, a real determination and a pragmatic vision of what a future ratings workforce is going to look like. So far, the deck and engine apprentices that have been recruited in the UK work mainly on ferries and in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), with a few other outliers. 

If other sectors like offshore, exploration or deep-sea trades are going to follow suit in a running a successful apprenticeship programme, P&O Ferries provides an excellent example of how it’s done and why.

  • Contact Mark to find out more about how your company can utilise apprenticeships and make use of the Government's Apprenticeship Levy.

Pictured above: P&O Ferries' 2018 intake of apprentices.

Below: P&O Ferries' 2016 intake of apprentices, who graduated at the ceremony in October.

P&O Ferries Apprentices - 2016 Intake - Graduation

P&O Ferries - 2018 Graduation - Joe Lansdown Deck RatingP&O Ferries - 2018 Graduation - Scott Pidduck Engine Room


Left:  Joe Lansdown graduates from P&O Ferries apprentice to deck rating.












Left: Scott Pidduck graduates from P&O Ferries apprentice to engine room rating. 













All photos courtesy of P&O Ferries.

For more information contact:

Mark Burgess

Training Development Manager

020 7417 2823 / 07391 865499

mark.burgess@mntb.org.uk