Last month, Scott Molloy from electronics recruiter Just ETOs filled us in on the industry’s AV/IT skills shortage. This month, we focus more on the recruitment company itself. How does it tackle the skills shortage?

A short history of Just ETOs

Whilst working onboard a yacht in 2013, Scott continued to hear about an apparent electronics skills shortage. This began the thought process that eventually became Just ETOs.

A year later, Just ETOs made its first appearance as a trading name under Scott’s consultancy business at the time. The first successful placement was made.

A case for giving someone a chance: Just ETOs’ 1st placement

A 100-metre new build yacht was struggling to find candidates with very specific qualifications and experience. As the requirements and employment package were non-negotiable, Scott suggested the compromise should be the candidate’s experience level. After an extensive search, a candidate from another marine sector stood out. The vessel gave him a chance. This candidate quickly picked up the yacht-specific system skills, and returned the faith shown in him. He is still there after more than two-and-a-half years. The Captain speaks very highly of him…

We had trouble finding suitable candidates for our ETO vacancy. We were made aware of Just ETOs by a contractor, and the agency quickly made a suitable recommendation. We were impressed by their unique service, communication level and the dedicated approach to our request. Stuart has been with us over 30 months now, he is a good guy and solid ETO. It was his first yacht, joining us from BP. Yet he quickly adapted to life on a superyacht and supporting the systems that were new to him.

Alexander Whitty. Captain, 100-metre yacht

Then Molloy learned he was going to be a father for this first time. He explains that this seems to have been the catalyst for the business progressing. “I needed to be home more often. After exploring different options, I decided to put everything into Just ETOs. I hadn’t fallen out of love with the idea, and there were promising signs for the business model,”  he said. So, Scott gave up his career onboard yachts to form the new company, and give it the time he felt it deserved.

In the first few months, he drew on his industry knowledge and experience to help with several successful placements. He found candidates and clients liked his approach and experience. “I kept being told it was refreshing to talk with a recruiter who properly understood the technology and skills requirements,” stated Scott.

A Success Story?

This is no fairy tale. Setting up a new recruitment service was not a fix for the skills shortage. Client requirements remained difficult to match to suitable and available candidates. As detailed in last month’s article, it was difficult to utilise candidates from other sectors. There are two tough obstacles that an electronics candidate needs to overcome to get that first job on a yacht.

First Yacht Job: Obstacle 1

To be given the chance to work on a yacht for the first time, when the client prefers previous yachting experience. “I strongly believe in giving people a chance to step up. However, it seems clients generally prefer experience over the potential loyalty and longevity of a less experienced candidate. But in all the placements where we’ve seen someone given a chance, they’ve more than proved themselves,” said Scott.

First Yacht Job: Obstacle 2

Experience of yacht systems, especially technology that is fairly unique to yachts. Molloy continued: “The systems most likely to be new to a candidate from outside of yachting are the high-end audio-visual systems. These are crucial to the guest experience onboard, yet pretty unique to yachts. How can a candidate ever gain this experience prior to their first yacht job? There is also a lack of suitable training courses for these systems. So it is really a vicious circle trying to attain such key skills.”

Yacht Entertainment Systems training course

This led Just ETOs to develop a new audio-visual systems training course for superyacht crew. The course is a key part of the company’s strategy for addressing the skills shortage.

As well as helping electronics engineers looking to start a career in yachting, it also helps crew already working on all sizes of yachts. “The course receives a lot of bookings from yachts under 65m in length,” Scott explains. “On these size vessels, there will often be no electronics engineer at all. Responsibility for AV/IT systems may fall to an engineer, or some other crew member”

It tries to tackle the skills shortage by teaching the tasks and knowledge needed to operate the most common AV/control system equipment. The course also includes certification from a major manufacturer of AV and control systems, Crestron.

View the Yacht Entertainment Systems documentary 

Back to recruitment basics

Molloy also believes that in order to distribute these skills as effectively as possible, the industry needs to get back to basics with recruitment.

“I knew the good and bad points of different agencies from my time as a crew member. I endeavoured to set up exactly what the industry believes a recruitment agency should be.”

And what is that?

“It encompasses many things. Proper vetting of candidates and making informed recommendations to clients. Not just simply forwarding CVs for the busy vessel to do all the decision making. I also believe very strongly in the value of open dialogue. Too often now, everything occurs in one-way communications such as email. To better address the tech skills shortage, we need to understand the client’s requirements thoroughly. So we try to start things off with at least a phone call.

We’re also contactable longer hours, 7 days a week. This is to better fit in with the round-the-clock nature of the maritime industry.”

Ethical recruitment

Recruitment can often seem very cut-throat. However, Molloy believes that done right, recruiters can stick to ethical practices AND get results. This not only benefits candidates and clients, but the industry as a whole.

“Essentially, I think of ethical recruitment as two things. Firstly, operating within the laws in place to protect seafarers. This includes UK employment law, and also the Maritime and Labour Convention 2006.

Secondly, never forgetting that we are dealing with people. Not a product on a shelf, but people’s livelihoods and time away from home and loved ones.

In a competitive market, there are other recruitment services cutting corners, operating unethically and even breaking the law. But in the end, such practices don’t benefit the industry.”

One example highlighted in the previous article is that Just ETOs never “head hunts” for client requirements. The company strives to build relationships with clients, and believes poaching the same client’s crew is detrimental towards this aim. Additionally, if candidates are being recycled from yacht to yacht, what chance do new engineers have to enter the industry? And if they don’t, how will yachts ever be able to find enough candidates to meet their requirements? As Scott says, “We need to break the vicious circle.”Injecting new blood into the industry and providing better training for existing crew is how to do it.

Click to read Part 1

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