The Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOP) Programme was endorsed as a network programme of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (‘Ocean Decade’) in June 2021 and has since then been supporting ECOPs around the world by providing meaningful networking, training, professional development, funding opportunities and creating capacity for cooperation and knowledge exchange.
The ECOP Programme defines an ECOP as a person that self-identifies as being early in their career (10 years or less of professional experience) in any field related to the ocean (not only employed/paid positions). The term “professional” is used in order to be inclusive of professionals from various sectors of society.
The global registry of ECOPs now includes over 3,196 ECOPs from 150 countries, and there are currently five regional and 26 national nodes established or in the making. Established regional nodes comprise Africa, Asia, Caribbean countries, Central America, with Europe in the immediate pipeline. Many other national nodes fall within these regional entities, for example Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, Japan, South Korea, but there are also stand-alone national nodes such as the US, Canada, Brazil, with Mexico and Australia/New Zealand to be formalized in the coming months.
The ECOP Programme has four task teams working on thematic areas, namely: Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity; OceanBRIDGES (sharing expertise between ECOPs and Experienced Ocean Professionals); Ocean Literacy; Training and Mentoring (coordinating the ECOP Programme webinar series and taking stock of mentorship schemes globally).
Capacity development is indeed one of the Programme’s priorities. Our webinars have addressed a wide range of topics from tips on how to start a non-governmental organization, aspects of ocean governance and blue economy to underwater acoustics, ArcGIS, and funding opportunities. We have conducted two technical trainings with the OceanTeacher Global Academy for ECOPs in Africa: Ocean Colour Remote Sensing and Data Analysis in June 2022 and Data Management and Analysis with R in February 2023, and we are now working on developing similar trainings for Asia (including China specifically), and Central and South America. Thanks to the financial support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), in 2022 we co-arranged eight online trainings for African and Caribbean ECOPs. All these trainings were provided for free to reflect our ambition to facilitate easy and free access to capacity development worldwide.
The ECOP Programme now hosts eight projects that have been endorsed since the start of the Ocean Decade under our Programme. These projects have a great geographical coverage with topics addressing innovation and start-ups, plastics, blue economy career pathways, engaging citizens in ocean science through surfing, and training programs including floating universities.
The ECOP Programme website, our monthly newsletter, and our social media are essential resources to look for articles and interviews with ECOPs, latest information on opportunities and events, invitations to participate in the Programme itself through internships or communications campaigns, as well as calls from our partners to engage in working groups or present at conference panels.
These two years since our endorsement have been very busy and productive, and there is still much more to be done. We invite you to connect with us through our social media and sign up to our newsletter – and stay in touch for further updates and opportunities!