A glimpse of the inspiring people and stories of the maritime industry.

Attracting top talent across disciplines: The MSC Maritime Summit Case Challenge

There’s a lot buzzing within the maritime industry these days, from the newly launched Maritime Innovation Lab that tracks smart ships and looks into next generation port operations solutions, to the PIER71 accelerator which aims to help bring solutions from start-ups into a commercially viable space.

As the world evolves, maritime as an industry also sees shifts in the way it operates. With it comes a new demand from businesses for talent and skills which has never been traditionally considered maritime-related. As we begin to see even greater interconnectivity between businesses and industries, the demand for talent beyond maritime specialisations that are able to work across functions and marry disciplines, and provide fresh perspectives and solutions to challenges, will only grow.

Talent makes all the difference. Yet, despite the fact that Singapore was named the top Maritime Capital of the World for the fourth consecutive time globally, maritime does not rank highly as an industry of choice for many local graduates.

The MSC Maritime Summit Case Challenge

To address this issue and reach out to talent of various disciplines, the inaugural MSC Maritime Summit Case Challenge (MMSCC) was organised in the first quarter of 2019, in partnership with leading maritime companies APL, Jurong Port and the Shell Companies in Singapore. This initiative was designed to offer students rare insights into the maritime industry, through a two-tiered challenge format which involved corporate partners contributing real-life business cases for undergraduates to take on.

The approach resonated well with the inquisitive youth of today, with the case competition drawing participation from over 100 undergraduates in five local universities, of whom 75 per cent were non-maritime students.

The varied solutions from the diverse student teams showed incredible thought, quality and creativity in their recommendations – proving that winning ideas come from everywhere. In fact, only one of the finalist teams had a maritime background, with the other two teams consisted of business management, economics and engineering undergraduates.

Capt Edmund George, Head of Fleet Studies, APL together with Mr Tan Wee Meng, Chief Technical Officer, Jurong Port and Capt B. Jayakumar, Marine Manager, Shell Companies in Singapore, answering questions on the respective business cases during the MMSCC Information Session

In the Preliminary Round, participants were assigned one of the unique business cases developed by each of the three companies, exclusively for the MMSCC. Students had a chance to delve into some lesser-known sides of maritime, exposing them to the different challenges and facets of the industry. The problems consisted of APL’s case about digitalisation for operational efficiencies in shipping, Jurong Port’s case on building a core local workforce in their engineering team, and Shell’s case about the strategy and plans to tap on a new business opportunity.

Students that are working on the Jurong Port case on a port tour, as part of company visits arranged for all MMSCC participants

Judged based on their submitted proposals and video presentations, the teams that emerged first for each of their respective cases then came together to compete in the Grand Finals, a 24-hour challenge to solve key recruitment and talent management issues, in a case study centred on strengthening Singapore’s position as a Global Maritime Hub for Talent.

Winning Ideas

It was Team Meridian comprising of SMU Year 3 Business students majoring in Operations Management – Ms Jasmine Oh, Mr Ng Yan Hong and Mr Ng Zheng Han that eventually emerged Champion, beating the other teams from NTU and NUS. Their proposal in the final round with strategies to enhance awareness and branding and boost opportunities for career development, especially among the millennial age group, impressed the panel of judges and ultimately won them the MMSCC Grand Prize of S$2,000.

In a report shared by LinkedIn at the recent Sea Asia 2019, it was found that 56% of those who started their careers in the maritime industry had stayed in the industry for their next role. With graduate hiring highlighted as a strategy to reduce churn, the industry has to focus on better understanding our next generation of talent in order to successfully engage and retain them.

Ms Jasmine Oh, from Champion Team Meridian shares her sentiments on some issues surrounding talent in the maritime industry, “People are not as attracted to the maritime industry because some perceive that the industry requires technical maritime knowledge, which job seekers may not necessarily possess. For retention, some newcomers lack the patience to learn the in-depth knowledge that the industry requires, so they give up and leave the industry.”

Champion team, Team Meridian, celebrating their win

Despite that, she is drawn to the industry – which she credits to her father. Testament to the power that each individual has within our spheres of influence, she shared that “Through conversations with my father, I know that the industry is one that requires passion, hard work and flexibility in order to excel. I observe these traits in my father and am motivated to learn and develop myself further in these areas, within the industry too.”

(Fun fact: the team had drawn inspiration for their name, Meridian, from him and his business!)

Asked about what misconceptions her peers might have about the industry that she would like to correct, she replies, “One would be the low pay and stagnant career growth. In actual fact, the maritime industry pays competitively. There are also growth opportunities such as overseas attachments and parallel rotations to nurture and expand the skills of employees and for them to climb the corporate ladder.”

“Another misconception is that maritime knowledge is a prerequisite to enter the industry. Besides technical roles, there are sales, insurance, financial and legal functions in the maritime industry, amongst others.

“The industry welcomes a range of diverse disciplines, and it is far more important that the individual has grit and a can-do attitude.” – Jasmine Oh, SMU Year 3 Business student, on her thoughts about talent in the maritime industry.

A Sweet Finish

Apart from cash prizes, the three finalist teams also received an exclusive invitation to the MSC Maritime Summit Dinner on 1 April 2019 – organised especially for these nine students to network with C-suite level of representatives from APL, Jurong Port, Shell Companies in Singapore, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and SMF. The dinner was held at Artemis Grill, a fine-dining restaurant at Level 40 of CapitaGreen offering panoramic views of the Singapore skyline.

Mr Kenneth Chia, Executive Director, Singapore Maritime Foundation, speaking with NUS students from Team Misad Ventures, MMSCC second runner-up team
Mr Lee Keng Mun, SMF Board Member and Head of Shipping Asia, Hamburg Commercial Bank and Mr Nick Potter, General Manager, Shell Companies in Singapore , speaking with Ms Chee Jia Tong, a final-year Maritime Studies student from NTU and Team ThunderBoat, MMSCC first runner-up team

MMSCC finalist teams with senior management and representatives from partnering companies, MPA and SMF at the MSC Maritime Summit Dinner

Through the MMSCC, students got a peek into the inner workings of today’s maritime industry and the chance to take on real-world business challenges, while maritime companies were able to brand themselves and gain a fresh perspective on their challenges.

Watch highlights of the event here.

As a key pillar contributing to 7 per cent of Singapore’s GDP with a workforce of 170,000 people strong, Maritime Singapore is a massive industry that requires a diverse group of talent with different skillsets to drive future growth and maintain its competitive advantage.

For those who are keen to take up new challenges, explore new horizons and be part of a vibrant, dynamic and growing sector, explore the Maritime Singapore Connect website and find out more.

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About The MSC Office

The Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office is a national initiative, supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, to profile the maritime industry and connect students and jobseekers with the multiple pathways into the industry.

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