MORE needs to be done to promote Scotland’s aquaculture sector as a rewarding long-term career choice – particularly for young people and for women.
These are among the conclusions of a skills review commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) on behalf of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG), and in collaboration with Skills Development Scotland.
It highlights areas of specialism for future employees that go beyond the boat handling, fish husbandry, fish feeding and biology skills normally associated with aquaculture. As the sector and its supply chain grows, so too will demand for skills in engineering, digital and IT, as well as leadership and organisational management.
The report flags a gender imbalance and the challenges posed by an ageing workforce, prompting its recommendation for promotion of the sector as a career opportunity for school leavers and graduates. It calls on the industry to enhance work-based learning and vocational training, and ensure this is accessible to employees, particularly in rural areas.
The sector is worth around £620 million to the Scottish economy and supports vital jobs in remote island and rural communities.
There is general consensus that the sector has the potential for further significant growth as a result of increasing global demand for fish and shellfish.
Morven Cameron, HIE’s head of universities, education and skills, said: "To realise the growth potential in Scotland’s aquaculture sector we need to make sure we have a suitably skilled workforce big enough to meet the recruitment needs of industry employers.
"It is crucial that public agencies, the industry and academic institutions work together to ensure we have the skills and workforce necessary to enable Scotland to benefit from the aquaculture industry’s growth potential."
Stewart Graham, managing director of aquaculture firm Gael Force and co-chairman of AILG, said: "We are aware in the production sector and the supply chain of the ever more sophisticated, science, engineering and digital technology being deployed in fish farming and its suppliers like my own company too.
"We look forward in the AILG to progressing an action plan to implement the recommendations and bring aquaculture to the fore, when people are considering a long-term career choice, to encourage more women and young people into our growing and exciting industry and to ensure awareness in our schools and further education institutes is much higher alongside the provision of much more training and learning opportunities to support and develop our workforce."
The report and executive summary can be found on HIE’s website at www.hie.co.uk/aquacultureskills