Interview with Pieter Coetzer

Seatrain's Pieter Coetzer on supporting young people entering the maritime and oil and gas sectors

In honour of Youth Day in South Africa, we sat down with Pieter Coetzer from Seatrain, the official sponsor of the AOW 2019 Student Programme. With a wealth of experience to offer, Pieter shared his views on supporting young people entering the maritime and oil and gas sectors.

Why are initiatives like the Student Programme at Africa Oil Week important?

Involving students in key industry events such as AOW is important for so many reasons. Firstly, it gives young people the opportunity to gain valuable insight into an industry which may or may not be of interest to them, while at the same time exposing industry leaders and decision makers to future young talent. 
Today’s workplace is a fast-paced environment and business cannot expect educators – who may have little or no knowledge about a specific industry - to prepare young people for entry into a specific sector or workplace. Industry needs to get involved; it is our responsibility to open our doors to these young people, to engage them and to offer meaningful ‘beyond the classroom’ experiences that make it possible for them to make informed decision about their futures.   

As the sponsor of the AOW 2019 Student Programme Seatrain will, amongst others, be giving Grade 11 maritime students from the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre in Simon’s Town the opportunity to be part of this key event. This is significant because in June next year, these students will be required to decide on tertiary fields of study. Having them attend Africa Oil Week is an opportunity to interest them in the offshore energy sector and consider careers in this sector.

We are hoping that delegates will make full use of the opportunity to engage, meaningfully, with these young students and use the opportunity to inspire and motivate them to be a part of this industry.
Having young people attend AOW is not only beneficial to the students, but it’s also an opportunity for decision makers in this industry to meet the future talent, to learn more about the interests and concerns of the younger generation – and possibly address misperceptions which may be preventing the student from considering the industry as a future career option.

What is one thing you wish you’d known before embarking on your chosen career?

I started my maritime career as a Deck Cadet in 1995, joining a large Container ship in the Port of Cape Town. I remember it like yesterday, and it was an amazing experience!
When you are young and sometimes maybe a bit naive, it is difficult to picture yourself in 20 years’ time, and know what the future might hold. Having grown up in the pre-digital era, we had limited access to information and at the same time to opportunities, exposure and options.
It would have been nice to have known at lot more about the maritime/offshore industry at the time.
What is the top quality young people attending the AOW Student Programme should cultivate in themselves? 

Young people tend to focus only on academic achievement but while this is important, they should not neglect their soft skills. Self-discipline and having a positive attitude, grit and determination are, in our view, far more important to success, as is time-management and a commitment to life-long learning. 

This said, we as industry also need to do more to encourage excellence in mathematics and science and, if necessary, see how we can support the teaching of these subjects in school. Schools are struggling to find educators for these important, foundation subjects and we as business can help.  One way of doing this is providing students with free access to online mathematics and science tutorials which they can access via mobile phone apps.

We also need to make young people aware of where the skills gaps are and what they need to do, now, to prepare themselves to fill those gaps. And lastly, young people – and their parents - need to understand a university degree is not necessarily the answer.  Many young people are more suited to artisan-type careers but are sometimes reluctant to consider these as options because of their perceived lower status in society.    This is a matter which must be addressed; if we don’t the shortage of these skills will become even more dire in the future.

How do you think the obstacles you faced as a young person will differ from those of current students about to enter the workforce?

Students today have grown up in a totally different environment. They face much stiffer competition in the workplace, globalization, digital bombardment and social distraction on a whole new level.

How can employers encourage young people to choose careers in engineering/oil and gas/maritime sectors?

There are a whole host of ways to do this, starting with encouraging young people to study mathematics and physical science at school.    

Secondly, employers can do more to provide mentorship and access to the industry. We should open our doors to young people and have them visit the workplace to engage with people who are currently in careers they may be interested in pursuing. Learnerships and internships allow students to gain a better understanding of what a career they have envisaged pursuing actually entails. They need to get taste of the real-life experience of the demands, challenges and excitement of a job.

Thirdly, it’s crucial to support education initiatives, such as the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre, who are preparing young people for entry into the maritime, engineering and oil and gas sectors. Make them aware of the opportunities in the industry and see how you can support access at post-matric level.

How is Seatrain supporting the next generation of talent in the industry?

As you know, Local Content and Skills Development are key issues in Africa and very important to the future sustainability and growth of this industry. Seatrain and our parent company, SAMTRA, are both supporters of the award-winning STS Lawhill Maritime Centre programme. We offer mentoring and financial support to encourage talented young people to enter this industry. We also provide a wide range of training courses and options, including specific oil and gas courses – click here to find out more.
Find out more about the student programme

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