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Case Studies

Exploring the reality of onboard training in the Merchant Navy

‘The Merchant Navy Training Board has always found working with The Mackinnon Partnership very refreshing. They are responsive, thorough, ... they make constructive comments ... the reports they produce are easy to read, written in plain English ...’
Glenys Jackson, Merchant Navy Training Board

On-the-job training is commonly tougher to manage effectively than what happens in a classroom, which is, of course, immediately accessible and in the hands of trained lecturers. Imagine how much harder it is when on-the-job training takes place at sea, a long way from central supervision.

The Merchant Navy Training Board has coordinated training for the Merchant Navy since the 1930s, working closely with a small number of specialist colleges and universities across the UK (most of which also have excellent international reputations). The Board became concerned about the difficulties and issues associated with onboard training – the on-the-job training which complements college-based learning in trainees’ multi-layer sandwich courses. We were commissioned to explore this and offer our recommendations.

Drawing on our substantial previous knowledge of the sector, we undertook a qualitative review, interviewing trainees, and over 30 others including college lecturers, employer representatives and the two leading companies brokering training on behalf of employers, and trade union leaders.

We found, as expected, some very impressive practice in the hands of industry leaders, and a number of problems in other companies around how the (good) existing guidance was implemented on board. We also offered some wider reflections - which were warmly received - on how the assumptions on which the current training structure was built were under challenge in a fast-changing industry, especially with much greater use of non-British crews.

The onboard training report

photo courtesy of MNTB