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Younger employees at CSL Group are placed in small groups and given business cases to solve together.Supplied

Getting that first real job without real job experience can be a scary prospect, as anyone who has ever had a job knows. Veronica Marsillo was studying to be a mechanical engineer when she was hired as an intern at Montreal’s CSL Group Inc.

“I didn’t even know what the marine industry was,” says Marsillo, now a procurement and logistics coordinator. “But my manager said she wanted to take a chance on me. And to be given that chance is just really exceptional.”

Taking chances on young people is part of the culture at the shipping company – its chief operations officer started as an intern almost 25 years ago. And they are essential, particularly in a rapidly evolving industry that is becoming ever more complex.

“We are building and operating ships that are more sustainable and high-tech,” says chief human resources officer Stéphanie Aubourg. “So we need young, talented people who can bring fresh approaches and ways of thinking to drive us forward.”

Because CSL’s workforce is divided between offices and ships, the opportunities are varied. And, as Aubourg notes, with several people both onshore and on board nearing retirement age, the opportunities are also plentiful. “We’re able to pair young people with our more experienced employees and prepare them for succession,” she says.

Every year, CSL hires about 20 interns for the office; similarly, 20 cadets each year are brought on ships. Cadets spend four years alternating between classroom and ship – all paid for by CSL for some of them. Upon graduating, the cadets pledge to work for CSL for two years; but most, Aubourg says, stay forever. On board, there is additional training to prepare cadets to move up the ranks.

On land, early-career employees spend the first year or so learning the business – everything from ship voyage and crew management to technical operations. “When they move up to a more senior role or manager role, they already understand the business inside out, which is a big plus,” she adds.

Growing the talent is important at CSL. Younger employees are put in small groups and given business cases to solve together. “In the group you have people from HR to operations and they all have to rely on each other to solve the case,” Aubourg explains.

“I think that’s why it’s an advantage to join a company like ours, because your internship is not going to be about filing papers. It’s going to be working on real projects that will have an impact on the entire company.”

Marsillo has had the opportunity to help organize CSL’s conference for its captains, chiefs, first officers and second engineers – a task not typically part of her job description. “We’re going to be meeting with a lot of the bigger players in CSL — the president and CEO, VPs, people in finance and law, health and safety, technical operations,” she says. “It’s a huge, huge opportunity to be able to do that.”

Still, it’s hardly rare for young employees to have access to specialists in all departments, all of whom are happy to share their knowledge. “It’s such a niche industry,” says Aubourg. “And people here are so proud of what they do or the shipyard they went to or the trip they did or the assignment that they had in another country that they’re super eager to share that with young people.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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