1. INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND
The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, hereafter referred to as "EASME", acting under the powers delegated by the European Commission (also referred to as "the Commission"), is launching a call for proposals with a view to concluding grant agreements, for projects in the field of skills' development for the blue economy.
This call is launched in accordance with the 2016 Work Programme for the Implementation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) (section 220.127.116.11 of the annex) on the basis of the objectives set out in the Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and in particular Article 82(c).
1.1. General information concerning the call for proposals
The action covered by this call for proposals forms part of the EMFF Work Programme,
whose implementation is delegated to EASME.
According to the Act of Delegation, grant agreements will be signed by EASME.
Our seas and coasts are key drivers for economic development. In the EU, it is estimated that about 5 million people work for the blue economy with about half of these in the coastal tourism sector. In addition to coastal and maritime tourism which is the largest activity at EU level, the blue economy comprises well-established sectors (such as shipbuilding & ship repair, transport, offshore oil and gas), as well as emerging sectors with a high potential for growth and jobs (such as blue biotechnology, aquaculture, renewable energy). These sectors were identified in the Blue Growth Strategy launched by the European Commission in 2012, which aims at strengthening the potential for jobs and growth of Europe's coasts, seas and oceans. However, this requires investing in an appropriately skilled workforce that can meet the labour market needs.
Existing skills gaps in the blue economy have been identified in various policy documents in recent years. The 2014 Communication "Innovation in the Blue Economy: realising the potential of our seas and oceans for jobs and growth" pointed out that the shortage of a skilled workforce, able to apply the latest technologies, notably in engineering is one of the main obstacles to the further development of the blue economy6. Several reports from the industry (e.g. shipbuilding, wind energy) highlight the current scarcity of skilled personnel, especially technicians, as a key limitation to the growth of their industry. This shortage of skilled staff is likely to increase in the coming years unless the offer of vocational training and education is improved. Although most collaborative research projects do include high quality training activities, there is insufficient effort to address the mismatch between graduates' knowledge and businesses' expectations in a structured way, e.g. as part of a wider strategy for growth and competitiveness.
Therefore, there is a need to bring industry and education/training providers together to promote and support the development of career opportunities in the blue economy, to train a new generation of students, scientists, professionals, technicians and entrepreneurs equipped with the appropriate skills to match the needs of the industry and to provide people already working in the field with the new skills required.
Such cooperation should address a broad range of jobs, i.e. from fishermen and technicians to highly skilled engineers, scientists or lawyers. Working in the blue economy requires not only sector-specific knowledge and skills but also interdisciplinary skills such as data management, statistics and modelling. Working in the blue economy also requires familiarity with aspects such as environmental issues, standards, safety and security requirements. Finally, industry-relevant skills such as entrepreneurship, financial and project management and the ability to work in an international environment also have to be better addressed in the education and training offer.
The shortage of people ready to work in the blue economy is also linked to other factors such as the ageing workforce or the perceived lack of career attractiveness. The fact that some maritime careers (in sectors such as fisheries, shipbuilding or maritime transport) are traditionally seen as male-oriented may also be preventing women from embarking on such careers.
In addition, the lack of information on career opportunities, or more generally, a lack of awareness on seas and oceans matters also has an impact on public perception and on the appeal of maritime careers. Raising students' awareness, from secondary school to higher education, about the wide variety of education and training opportunities leading to maritime jobs is therefore key to enhancing the visibility and attractiveness of the blue economy for the younger generation.
At EU level a number of initiatives have been launched in recent years to address the mismatch between available skills16 and the needs of the labour market17. While they can all partly contribute to tackling the challenges of the blue economy, none of them targets this area specifically18. Hence, the specific action "Blue Careers in Europe", subject of this call for proposals, has been included in the EMFF work programme 2016.
2. OBJECTIVES – PRIORITIES – ACTIVITIES – OUTPUTS/IMPACTS
Based on the needs set out above, this action aims at contributing to fill existing skills' gaps by supporting activities that will increase the employability of various target groups in blue economy sectors (e.g. students, workers, unemployed people etc.). The applicant's choice of sector and target group has to be based on an analysis of the needs of the local or regional labour market and of the industry, including at cross-border level if relevant.
In order to ensure that supported activities take due account of clearly identified needs, projects should bring together stakeholders from both the industry and education and training providers, as well as public authorities.
Where relevant, projects should address the gender imbalance in the blue economy and encourage women to step into traditionally male-dominated work areas and vice-versa.
Furthermore, projects should enhance the visibility and attractiveness of the different career opportunities in the blue economy, especially for young people.
In the context of the above general objectives, proposals submitted under this action must provide concrete and effective responses to at least one of the following challenges:
- Attract higher education graduates or persons with a vocational/technical qualification to maritime professions through targeted and innovative education and/or training initiatives (including career guidance);
- Retrain and upskill workers employed in other sectors and/or people currently unemployed for a job in the blue economy;
- Diversify and expand the skills of people currently employed in the blue economy to progress in their career and/or to facilitate their mobility to other maritime jobs.