This impatient generation of seafarers: Is it all bad?


What is your attention span today, and why is that relevant to the Shipping Industry?

Today, we have an attention span of seven (7) seconds.

The goldfish has eight 8!

So, right about now, I have probably lost you already!

Attention span in today’s day and age

I don’t want to wait for three days for my Amazon delivery. That’s too long!! I would rather subscribe to Amazon Prime and get it the next day.

Why would I wait a week to watch the next episode of Game of Thrones? I have Netflix. I’ll just binge when I want!

Want love, but preoccupied? Nervous about meeting someone? No social skills? Hit tinder! Swipe right, and Bam! You’re a stud just like that!

This is the time of instant gratification; a time of impatience. This concept is most challenging to grasp if you were born before the eighties, but equally hardwired into the young minds! That is how they grew up. They just got dealt a hand like that! Is it a bad hand? Hold that thought.

What is the point of all this and why is that relevant to the Maritime Industry?

See, much of what I write is about the present generation of millennial seafarers and promise you I have a point. I am coming to that…..

The Classic Deep-Shallow Argument

If you are a person born in the seventies or earlier, you may find it extremely shallow to see the youngsters have lesser attention span than a goldfish, literally!

It is frustrating!

You have strived to reach where you are today. You have learnt everything the hard way! You had to sit through manuals and drawings to identify faults. You had to read journals and magazines to stay updated. Today they think they can learn anything and everything from a video. That’s irritating, isn’t it? Should things be so easy? Aren’t these just shallow shortcuts?

If this is what you feel, I have news for you.

Like it or not, many things have become that easy! Just because something is simple to learn today does not mean it is substandard information.

It just means that technology has brought us there.

The internet is a wonderland!

You just have to know what to look for, and you can often get the best out of it. Chances are, you are reading this book on the internet as well!

In 2016, while being a Master mariner and with zero background in web design, I learnt how to build my website with one month of effort. My site ranked within the top 3% in the world in a matter of 6 months.

In 2018, I learnt how to build cross-platform apps for my website to educate young millennial seafarers around the world using digital instruments as their guidance tools. In 2019 I launched a business from this knowledge and now we are working with ships worldwide.

All this, with just a few clicks and the internet, and while having another full-time job!

It’s not just me. Information is available. If you are interested, it is there for you!

That is not to say there is no junk. Of about two billion websites, many are just junk!

But then that was always the case.

In the 20th century, there were good books and bad books; you just had to know which one to choose. Similarly, there are good and bad things about technology, you just have to know where to go; and like all things, the more you practice, the better you become at choosing it!

The impatience to learn

Why is this so relevant to realize that we are impatient?

You may or may not agree that learning must be easy, but you need to realize one thing. The Young generation believes that to the very core! They want things to be comfortable and exciting to learn. They are impatient! You cannot change that fact. But that does not mean (as you might think) that they want substandard information. It is not a tradeoff at all! They also want the information to be of a very high standard.

You may argue with them that easy things are shallow, but they will put your conviction to the test. You cannot show them One skill set which you cannot learn quickly from the internet today!

Oh, wait…. There is one! You cannot learn how to be a seafarer from the internet. You need to smell and feel the salty wind on your face before that happens. Before that, we will not trust you as a seafarer!

Being in this profession for twenty years, I agree with that. When you try to learn your job without stepping on board a ship, it is like trying to take swimming lessons on the internet without hitting a pool. This, more than anything, is an acquired taste and an acquired skill.

The devil’s advocate

But it’s not about what I feel. For a moment, let me try to play the devil’s advocate!

What would a young seafarer feel?

For a brief moment, let us try to get into their minds!

We find fantastic, hard-working kids who graduate from the nautical academy and come on board a ship for the first time. I have studied them for some time now. They have their aspirations; they usually want to make an impact!

But they are impatient. They look around and realize that this is nothing like what they expected! Over the first few months, they feel quite useless for the ship. They find no simple ways to learn their jobs, even necessary skills. There are Books, checklists and Computer-based training. None of that interests them.

It is essential to mention here that sometime earlier many companies decided to change from Paper files to paperless computer-based SMS and checklists.

This might look modern, and it surely has reduced the job-pressure (thanks to CTRL+C and CTRL+V J), but it is still nowhere close to being interesting!

When the young mind thinks of simplified digitized information, he does not imagine books which he can read on the PC or checklists he can fill up on the computer! Its 2020 and the world has gone far ahead!

As an impatient generation, they expected to learn their jobs on the fly! The methods used on board is hard for them to grasp. Many of them soon lose interest. Some do start the hard way. They realize they are not able to make an impression, let alone an impact. Job satisfaction goes for a toss, and many want to quit real soon. And guess what! All their seniors are immediately ready to typecast them as useless and unmotivated!

Does this make sense?

The solution to this impatient generation

There are two doors. We can go one of two ways from here.

One: The more common condescending approach.

They ‘must be motivated’ to learn their jobs! They must work at it till that happens. We cannot take responsibility for their unrealistic expectations of sea life! They must go through the hardships of going through all relevant books and publications and slough to gain experience just like ‘we’ had.”

This is one argument every generation has always given to the ones after them.

It is an easy argument to present. With this argument, we can simply absolve ourselves of any innovation!

Perhaps many youngsters will take that road, even if they are reluctant. After all, they need a job!

In this approach, what we are saying is that we will give you Books, checklists and SMS on the computer, the same things which we had, like it or not, till the end of time! We will call you to class and give you lectures, like it or not! We will throw in CBTs instead of question papers and make them sound modern, like it or not! We are not going to worry about what you want, because we believe this is the only way to learn. You will have to discover it this way, like it or not!

Now let’s talk about a slightly different approach.

Two: An innovative approach

What if we met them halfway?

What if we updated our methods to gel with their requirements as well?

Let’s first lock on to the basic – in this profession, you need to be a hands-on guy! You cannot sit behind a screen and get knowledgeable. With that said, what if we gave them short trigger material on their devices which they can use to get an idea of what to do?

What we can do

Why not create short trigger videos which can generate interest in the young mind, just the way they are used to? That is precisely what we did when we were creating the Maritime Skill Enhancer platform.

Imagine a simple task like wearing an SCBA with all checks done.

Do you think you can learn it without actually wearing it? Impossible!

You have to get your hands dirty if you have to master the skill of wearing it in an emergency. Nothing else will prepare you for it! Even a young millennial knows that!

Now imagine giving a youngster a short video – about 3 minutes long – which shows them what to do, demonstrated by one of them! Do you think it will be more appealing than learning the job from a poster or a manual?

Videos can demonstrate the precise checks to be done and the methods to follow to wear it in the shortest possible time. If carried out by millennial seafarers, they become more relatable. Spend a mere 3 minutes watching it, and go ahead and try it on your own!

Why would that work?

I love to explain this part. Think about it.

Here’s what it conveys to the young millennial:

  1. Here you have a simple tool to learn this aspect of your job! Something you can watch on your mobile. Do you feel you can relate to that? Isn’t it how you are used to?
  2. It’s made with utmost precision; it is not substandard information; once you watch it, please go practice it!
  3. I know you don’t have time; I will not take much. Give me just 3 minutes!

Conclusion: Brainstorm

We have discussed the impatience of the young Millennial brain.

Share with us ideas which you think will trigger the right response in them. Leave those in the comments below.

What do you think will bring them to their jobs with excitement and make them look forward to working onboard the next day?

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