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Sanne Struijk on career opportunities in the superyacht construction industry

“Superyacht construction offers many innovation and advancement opportunities for engineers.”

With more than 15 years’ experience in recruitment, Sanne Struijk is the driving force behind the YER yacht building team. The team specializes in placing highly skilled engineers in superyacht construction jobs. In this interview, Sanne reveals why professionals are attracted to the industry.  He also talks about the opportunities for advancement and explains how the personal and tailored coaching he offers can contribute to your career success. 

Sanne spent a year and a half working on sailing yachts on the Mediterranean. He even got to crew on the classic SY Lulworth. Those days of high adventure made an indelible impression on him. When he returned to the Netherlands, he specialized in recruiting technical professionals and built a strong cross-sector network that includes the yacht building industry.

Technical challenges in extremely innovative sector

“The superyacht construction industry has an exclusive image and the image is accurate, particularly for the end user. After all, we are talking about very wealthy clients with a dream boat in mind. So their requirements can sometimes be very extravagant. Since every yacht is unique, as an engineer you are constantly presented with one-off challenges and have to find the best solution. Everything for the engines, the interior and the exterior is of the highest quality. You work with only the best materials and the latest technological innovations.”

“It is safe to say that everything on board is the best and most cutting-edge currently available. Much like a new house, yacht construction starts with the hull, followed by the fitting of installations and then the finishing touches. The use of responsibly sourced sustainable materials plays a key role throughout the construction process. And then there is the issue of size. Superyachts used to measure 50 meters. Today, people barely raise an eyebrow at boat lengths of up to 180 meters, which is absolutely gigantic.”

World-leading superyacht shipyards in the Netherlands

“There are many shipyards in the Netherlands. At least thirteen specialize in superyacht construction. The boats they build could be said to be the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls-Royces of the yachting world. Their corporate culture is down-to-earth and passionately committed to innovation, technology and design. The teams have a great deal of expert knowledge and together they are determined to deliver a phenomenal product that meets the end user’s every requirement. Orders mostly come from abroad because the shipyards in the Netherlands and Germany are among the best in the world. But then this is hardly surprising given that, as a maritime country, the Netherlands has been building boats for centuries. This knowledge continues to evolve and is still being applied today.”

Yacht building professionals are much needed

“With growing demand for new and refitted superyachts, the industry is in dire need of technically skilled professionals – from production people to project directors and everything in between. The construction of a yacht involves many different specialisms and a wide range of roles. So, for example, there is great demand for interior engineers and interior design project leaders for yacht interiors. When it comes to mechanical and electrical systems, there is a need for technical experts such as system and project engineers, and mechanical and electrical team leads."

“Specialist expertise is also required for the design and construction of the exterior. This presents many opportunities for professionals such as exterior engineers, exterior project leaders and design engineers. Among our clients, there is enormous demand for professionals with a technical background. At the same time, the Dutch labor market is grappling with a severe shortage of skilled workers. This means we have to recruit the right talent from across the border. So if you land a job at a shipyard, chances are you will be working in an international environment.”

Experienced consultant with an extensive network and first-hand knowledge

“We recruit technically skilled professionals for all specialist roles in the superyacht construction industry. We represent candidates at all levels, from market entrants to senior executives. Our clients include not only shipyards but also engineering firms, design studios and industry suppliers. I was employed by an Italian shipyard and have first-hand experience of working on two sailing yachts, one 34 meters long, the other 46 meters long."

"I also got to crew on these yachts in regattas on the Côte d'Azur and off the coast of Italy. After that, I gained years of experience as a recruitment consultant and built an extensive network in the industry. So I know the market inside out. My experience, passion for yacht building and overview of the industry enable me to offer candidates helpful advice on the different corporate cultures, challenges and opportunities.”

Personal guidance and tailored career coaching

“To help us place you in the right role, we will identify your motives and find the connection between what you aspire to and where you can achieve it. We will discuss the opportunities for advancement and give you a clear understanding of where you can start and where you can potentially end up. For example, if you are an engineer looking to transition to project management, our career coaching will help you develop the skills you need to open that door. And with our extensive network, I can quickly put you in touch with suitable employers, so the chances of a good fit are high.”

Yacht building experience may not be necessary

“Professionals keen to work in the yacht building industry who do not have the right experience are welcome to contact me for advice. Whether you are a market entrant or a senior director, I will help you understand your options. Together we will assess where you are now, clarify your ambition and determine which organization is the best fit to help you achieve it."

“For example, it will be relatively easy for a mechanical engineer to join a mechanical team, but the ship building team is another matter. Few engineers are familiar with the industry-specific calculations you learn as part of a marine engineering degree. If you are a market entrant, you probably won’t know where to start. If this is the case, I can explain how the market works, what companies and projects there are, and what is happening in the industry. This will help you understand how to enter the industry and what your prospects are.”

Many opportunities for lateral and upward advancement

“Once you gain a foothold in the yacht building industry there are many opportunities for advancement. For example, you may start out as a technical draftsperson or engineer, work your way up to lead engineer and end up in project management. The work is also very varied. One day you’re at a shipyard boarding a superyacht under construction as a project manager, the next day you’re boarding a flight to solve a problem on a vessel in the Caribbean. The extensive knowledge and experience you gain makes you very valuable to any company. So whether you choose to join a shipyard, a design firm or an engineering company, there are always opportunities for advancement in one company or another."

“In the shipyards, there is a tangible sense of team spirit and shared passion for the product. Once the work on a superyacht is complete, everyone gathers outside for the launch and delivery of the yacht to the owner. Everyone shares in this special moment. This is usually the last time you see the boat. But then of course, you may spot the yacht you worked on when you’re on vacation or scrolling through social media – you never know!”