Education for Saudi Arabia’s maritime workforceAugust 21, 2023
Turki Al Shehri, managing director of the National Maritime Academy (NMA), talks to The Energy Year about the number of graduates the Saudi marine industry requires and the academy’s role in bridging this gap. The NMA is a training institution dedicated to educating and training the Saudi maritime workforce.
How many marine graduates does the market require, and what’s the NMA’s role in bridging this gap?
The NMA is a specialist maritime education and training institution tasked with providing the necessary national and international qualifications required to ensure that the kingdom is a global beacon of maritime excellence.
The academy was created through a strategic partnership between Saudi Aramco and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, with a vision of training young Saudis in all aspects of the maritime industry, including shipbuilding and repair, ship operations and port operations and logistics.
The academy is further supported by a board of trustees with representation from the Human Resource Development Fund, the Transport General Authority and MAWANI. This gives the NMA a strong board of trustees with representation from across the maritime industry, regulatory authorities and academia.
Our latest market analysis has concluded that for Saudi Arabia to maintain its current maritime-related industries, the country will require over 5,000 graduates per year. Our analysis has also concluded that the maritime industry is set to expand, which will further generate an urgent need to develop and maintain a local talent pool of specialised maritime professionals.
The current capacity of the NMA as of 2023 is 500 graduates per year. We are actively increasing our capacity and expanding our training capacity to increase our graduate output to 3,000 graduates per year. This expansion will be facilitated with our move to a 400,000- square-metre facility on the seafront, which will reduce our overall costs since most of the training we provide is on water.
What were the main drivers behind the creation of the NMA?
It is no secret that Saudi Arabia has seen a substantial transformation and has been embracing changes regarding the way in which we all live and work. These changes have created substantial opportunities for Saudi nationals thanks to the direction and support of the government and all entities, especially Saudi Aramco.
The maritime sector, and even to an extent the oil and gas sector, in the kingdom has risen to the challenge of Vision 2030 and is actively contributing to make the vision a reality. There will be challenges, and it will certainly take some time to meet the full Saudisation requirements of the maritime industry in the kingdom.
In realisation of this challenge, the NMA represents a huge step forward in enabling the local education and training of the maritime community.
What is your training philosophy for generating competitive graduates?
At NMA we believe that our trainees deserve the best possible education, training and certification to ensure that when they leave our academy, they are well prepared for working in this global industry. Our training includes hard technical skills and competencies and human and meta-skills, which will encourage trainees to foster a love of learning and challenge them to thrive and become the industrial leaders of tomorrow.
Underpinning this philosophy is our approach to delivering world-class education and training. Our approach has a strong focus on developing competencies through practical and vocational learning experiences.
We have benchmarked our programmes against the best in the world and have brought the best trainers into the country to deliver their expertise to our students. This global outlook ensures that our graduates are in-demand not just in the local market but also in the global market.
What is your strategy for providing client-oriented training services?
We place clients at the centre of our programme design strategy. We know that off-the-shelf training rarely meets the bespoke and personal needs of a client, especially in a field as wide and dynamic as the maritime industry.
We therefore believe it is essential to work with our partner clients to fully understand their local context to develop appropriate and contextualised programmes for them. Our team of subject-matter experts work with companies to develop learning experiences and programmes which simulate real workplaces and real tasks and activities that our students will be expected to do when they graduate.
Our instructors coach our students through these activities, encouraging them to reflect on their learning and progress. Where possible we work with our clients to provide work-based learning opportunities, where the student is exposed to the working environment and company culture. This method has proven to be hugely successful in improving engagement, dialogue and feedback with our clients and students.
What is the NMA’s most developed course right now?
Since enrolling our first cohort of students in November 2020, we have produced a steady output of seafarers from our academy across all ranks and departments onboard ship. Our first deck and engineering officers will graduate in Q3 of 2023 and will serve as our internal quality benchmark, from which we will only improve.
These officers will also represent our first external market measure of success, which will help us better see how we can further educate, develop and promote our officers within the country.
Seafarer education and training is very unique. It takes up to 10 years after graduation to work your way up the shipboard ranks to become fully qualified as either a captain or a chief engineer.
Given how complex and challenging working on a ship is, there is a strong requirement for real, practical experience working onboard. This is built into our training programmes. We are always here to support our students, beginning from when they apply for work at sea and continuing until they retire.
What other sectors is the NMA targeting?
The NMA provides a wide range of programmes and courses for all maritime and maritime-adjacent sectors. We provide a one-stop shop for all maritime-related industries. We provide training for seafarers, ports and logistics, marine tourism, shipbuilding and repair, offshore construction and everything in between. All our courses are internationally benchmarked and customised to meet the individual needs of the client.
Our bespoke approach to learning design and curriculum development provide NMA with a unique ability to adapt to industry requirements and to become a one-stop shop for the whole industry, which is incredibly important for current projects and investments in the kingdom, especially the King Salman Maritime Complex.
What is the NMA’s strategy for becoming internationally certified?
All of the training courses we deliver are nationally and internationally recognised and certified. We have achieved these certifications through the hard work and dedication of our expert team of specialists. We cross-mapped and benchmarked our programme designs to bring the best practices of curriculum design, learning and teaching from across the globe to our portfolio of courses.
Our seafarer certification for officers is recognised not only by our local regulators, the Transport General Authority and MAWANI, but also by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom Chamber of Shipping.
We maintain that having this level of internationalism is essential given the global nature of the maritime industry. We will continue to both import and export best practices to ensure we are truly competing on the world stage as a global maritime centre of excellence.