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Think bigger: Learning organisations

The ‘VUCA’ (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment has been exacerbated by the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the fast pace of technological development in an increasingly competitive environment. At the same time, the maritime industry needs to ramp up its decarbonisation efforts, and individuals and organisations alike must ensure they have the clarity and agility to meet current and future challenges.

While uncertainty prevails on decarbonisation and alternative fuels, the ‘future’ is also here in the sense that seafarers already need training in the safe handling and storage of a range of new fuels. While some continue to grapple with the implementation and effects on training of the fourth industrial revolution, others are rightly preparing for the fifth – how to reintegrate the human element into a sustainable, technology-driven system.

At Wallem, we believe that the skills and competencies needed for the VUCA age include data and cross-cultural literacy, cognitive diversity, collaboration, innovation and creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

At its core, our blended learning strategy considers the three learning domains – cognitive, psychomotor and affective – as the basis for developing the methods and technological tools best suited to achieving optimum learning outcomes for seafarers. The aim is to ensure efficient knowledge transfer so that crew can apply their skills and experience in new contexts.

Ben Shao

Wallem training centres provide a state-of-the-art base for in-person training, which remains crucial in teaching certain competencies. Among other facilities, our recently opened training centre in Manilla is equipped with world-class simulators to provide an immersive environment. Other skills can be taught effectively online; e-learning offers time- and cost-efficiency benefits, and seafarers increasingly favouring bitesize, on-demand educational resources that allow them to refresh their knowledge when and as often as they need to. In addition, Wallem also provides onboard training, where our instructors can observe first-hand the behaviour of seafarers on the job and provide face-to-face guidance and feedback.

The development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in particular requires a move away from the old-school, one-way lecture format. Content needs to be engaging, and the trainer must take on the role of facilitator. Learners also build on previously acquired knowledge and skills through thought-provoking discussions and role-play/simulation exercises before applying them to new and unfamiliar scenarios.

However, in developing critical-thinking faculties, attention should be paid not only to competency-based training but also to teaching new behaviour centred on lifelong learning habits. Human beings tend to apply their skills at work based on their own experiences and often focus on the most immediately apparent conclusion regardless of the evidence. Even seasoned professionals generally favour the evidence that supports their existing beliefs.

To remain relevant in a rapidly evolving maritime labour market, seafarers require self-awareness and the ability to think on their feet. By collaborating with their peers and challenging their own long-held assumptions and beliefs, they can leverage the experience of others to expand their own knowledge and expertise.

In fact, teamwork is more important than ever before. Data science is helping us to understand what is relevant and how interdependencies work, while automation is helping seafarers to minimise errors and improve reliability. Yet when issues arise, it is human beings we turn to, to take charge and navigate us through the VUCA environment.

At Wallem, we value our trainers who observe subtle cues and give feedback in an empathetic manner to foster development. Our application of the Behavioural Competency Assessment and Verification framework – with a hybrid approach of on-the-job trainers, reflective learning and simulation – aims to encourage lifelong learning habits.

Learning is not only for seafarers, however. For an organisation to survive and thrive in this VUCA environment, it needs to create a company-wide learning culture. ‘Learning organisations’ know how to learn on a deeper level; they embrace systems thinking, have a shared mental model and foster strong cross-cultural literacy skills. In addition, they can make quick decisions and adapt to changing environments – whether internal or external – through transformation, innovation and creativity.

This year, we continue our efforts in building dual-fuel capability, with seafarers and shore staff undergoing GI engine and LNG bunkering training. Here, too, we are exploring technologies such as virtual and augmented reality. Equally important at Wallem is building strong teams through collaboration and enhancing soft skills through targeted leadership, DE&I and communication training programmes.

When it comes to the availability of crew, it is important that a company such as ours has a diverse range of source markets for seafarers; we are looking to develop crew pools from countries that are not so well known for providing crew to the international shipping industry.

Since the only constant today is the VUCA environment we find ourselves in, we have to be flexible and agile in our training and learning approach. As a 120-year-old company, we continuously adapt to our changing environment, collaborating and innovating to realise our vision of offering world-class solutions that serve the Ship of the Future.
Source: By Praveen Shukla, Crewing Director, and Ben Shao, Head of Learning & Development, Wallem

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