Representatives from across the region’s maritime industry gathered at City College Plymouth on Monday 10 October to renew commitments to work together for the sake of the region and beyond.
At a special dinner to mark the start of Maritime UK Week, military and industry leaders, academics, College staff and local authority representatives listened intently to a series of entertaining and informative presentations that all showcased the promising opportunities within Plymouth and the wider region.
Guests were greeted by an impressive boat that belonged to Plymouth’s own yachting star, Conrad Humphry, perfectly setting the scene for the maritime-themed event that included a delicious three-course meal prepared and served by the College’s own hospitality and catering students.
During her welcome address, College Chief Executive, Jackie Grubb, set out the College’s position as Plymouth’s anchor provider for skills and reaffirmed a commitment to supporting efforts to drive economic growth and prosperity, before handing over to the evening’s keynote speakers.
In full military uniform, Brigadier Mike Tanner OBE, RM, Naval Base Commander, addressed a captivated audience, setting out the Royal Navy’s strategic plans that will lead to a 50-year-plus package of work for Devonport Dockyard.
“The future of the Royal Navy sees a return to Plymouth’s history. For years the Royal Navy has been downsized, but a revised strategy for a more maritime-focused defence means a bigger budget and more ships,” the Brigadier explained. “Devonport’s reputation is synonymous with this idea of oil and rags, but looking forwards, we need to keep the focus on continuing to develop it as a centre for exciting and innovative technologies. It is a mission – a big one – but with the right people, we can achieve it.”
The Brigadier’s words set the tone for the night, with speeches given by Simon Foster, Babcock’s Director of Life Time Planning; Plymouth and Devon Freeport Interim Chair, Adrian Bratt; and representing the industry’s women, Annie Reed, Princess Yachts’ Operation Sales Director, all following a similar theme of huge hope, but also issuing caution.
Having not long returned from a flurry of boat events in Cannes and Southampton, Annie’s presentation immediately acknowledged the short-term threats to the industry. “Our short-term challenges: supply chain shortages and recruitment. Longer-term, a shortage of skills.”
With both Annie and Adrian setting out high levels of industry growth for Princess Yachts, which is seeing rising sales in the US, Annie’s face was one of concern when sharing the following statistic. “A poll of teenagers showed that 54% believe traditional crafts and skills will disappear. They see a purely digital future,” she said.
During his moments as the evening’s excellent compere, Lance Chatfield, the College’s Executive of Technical Innovation, appealed for a cross-industry effort to change our children’s opinions on careers, a sentiment that was echoed by Babcock’s Simon Foster, who also reminded the audience of the important business ecosystem that stems from the maritime industry.
Simon said: “It is important to work with younger people to educate and inform them about the evolving jobs within the industry. But we also need to share that message with adults. We need to further develop our city’s skills.”
At the foundation of any future collaborations will be City College Plymouth: ready to work with businesses and organisations of all sizes to ensure the people are developing the skills they need to support “the mission”, as set out by the Brigadier.
Summing up the evening, Lance said: “Just from what we have witnessed tonight, whilst the industry faces some key challenges, maritime is right at the heart of this city. Plymouth is Britain’s ocean city and, together, we can see this city rightly recognised both nationally and internationally. Plymouth’s future is bright – Plymouth’s future is maritime.”