When future maritime training was discussed in Kalmar last week there was a quite heated argument. The fire alarm went off and the seminar had to be canceled prematurely.
"We weren't finished. The issue needs to be raised again, perhaps at a workshop before Christmas, Åsa Burman, operations manager at Lighthouse, says.
About an hour before the day’s closure, the discussion became quite heated when three students gave their views and questioned the quality of the Swedish maritime training. Emma Birgersson, a student of the master mariner program at Linnaeus University, said she was worried about the future. Is there really a lot of jobs for master mariners?
"The first thing you hear when coming out at internships is: “Are you really going to invest in this? There are no jobs ”. The 10-12 seamen I met during my two months at a ferry were all trained sea captains. It felt pretty tragic."
She was also critical of the education, which she did not think kept up with the technical development.
"When we graduate, will we really be attractive then?"
Another student, Martin Gilljam, demanded that the industry explains what is required of the programs. An active industry council is needed, he said.
"Another thing that I think is a bit strange is that the student salary was removed at the internships."
The quality of the internships was also questioned by a student among the audience who had been the only Swede among Filipinos on three ships.
"They never spoke English. I want to see an increased responsibility from the universities. You have to keep track of the internships."
The program managers were not late to respond to the criticism.
"Of those who have graduated in the last two years, all had jobs within six months after graduation", Johan Eliasson of Chalmers said without specifying what kind of job the new graduates got.
Linnéaus University’s Magnus Hofvander further explained that there already is an industry council, although resting, but which he promised would come back. Then he described the "burning issue of the lost student salary" as a death blow.
"That’s the single biggest cause of why students want to change their internship. This is not at all well managed by the industry and the unions."
Mikael Lindmark, SEKO seafarers, emphasized that there still is an agreement.
"Only one word has changed. "Must" has been replaced by "can". If the students work, they should have a salary according to the agreement, he said, adding that SEKO did not value the issue so highly because it did not affect their members."
"If you want us to negotiate for you then you must be member with us. That's how it works."
The topic was discussed a few more turns before, a loud signal came over the room followed by a metallic voice.
"IMPORTANT MESSAGE! FIRE IS BREAKING OUT IN THE BUILDING!"
The building was vacated and the seminar was canceled an half hour before schedule. A bit disapointing, but obviously necessary.
"Unfortunately, we did not get to a concluding discussion on the issue that the seminar was really about; what competence the education of the future needs to convey", Åsa Burman, operations manager at Lighthouse, says.
The question needs to be discussed further. And that soon. Maybe at a workshop before Christmas? Lighthouse will return with information.