‘Learn the ropes’ MH boss tells students

THE boss of Scotland’s biggest salmon farming company told students yesterday they were more likely to get a job in his company if they’d had work experience on a farm.
Ben Hadfield, managing director of Marine Harvest Scotland, said he had his first job at 15, in a water purification plant, and went back there every summer, earning £10,000 a year. Job seekers were more likely to get his attention if they had learnt the ropes.
The aquaculture industry ‘was just getting started’ and the sector of the future was going to need a lot more engineers, water chemists and biologists, students heard at the Institute of Aquaculture’s careers  day in Stirling yesterday.
Hadfield, the keynote speaker at the event – which attracted record attendance this year – revealed to his young audience that he had grown up by a stream in Manchester ‘obsessed with fish’.
The industry needed ‘make it happen people’ and while degrees and doctorates were a great start, they were not enough.
‘Work in the industry – and I do mean work!’ he advised. Spend two years in a hatchery, processing, feed production, feeding fish. It was also important to live where the job was based and not try to commute from a city.
He encouraged the youngsters to ‘be vocal…never offer a criticism without offering a solution…and be a people person in order to lead’.
‘If you want to grab my attention with your CV for me to give you a management job, you need an MSc, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to take on responsibility for a crop of fish or a key activity within farming, then do four years of technical management, then you can have my job.’
Marine Harvest particularly needs help understanding the water business, he said, as the company develops its recirculation technology, and he wanted to ‘poach’ people from Israel, where they have much expertise in this area.
The company is on a recruitment drive, as it ramps up production next year, opens new sites, and its feed plant becomes operational at the end of the year. This, said Hadfield, had run over budget and would now cost £120 million.
The company’s Jayne Mackay, manning the Marine Harvest stand at the careers fair, said key managerial positions at the new plant, on Skye, had been filled and they were now recruiting technical roles. The jobs were being filled by a mixture of local people, some returning to the area, and outsiders.
Iain Berrill, from the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, told students who were trying to get into the sector but were worried about being over qualified: ‘Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom.’
Average pay in the industry was around £28,000 and an assistant farm manager could earn £30,000.
Jason Cleaversmith of Akva said in today’s world you were likely to have multiple jobs and that the aquaculture industry was ‘so young, with immense scope for growth and innovation’.
He said young people should not be afraid to change direction, as he had done, but he warned about trying to be someone they weren’t.
He recounted his ordeal during an interview for Oxford University, pretending he was interested in philosophy and poetry, when what he really liked was sport – it’s better to be yourself and ‘be confident in you!’ he said.
Other speakers at the careers day, organised by the Aquaculture Students Association, included Ralph Bickerdike of Scottish Sea Farms, Philip Lyons of Coppens, Chris Mitchell of Pharmaq, Tom Ashton of Xelect and James Deverill of Cargill.
There were 14 stands, with the Scottish Salmon Company, Scottish Sea Farms, Dawnfresh – as well as Marine Harvest – among the producers present, alongside the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and MSD Animal Health.
The president of the ASA, Athina Papadopoulou, said more than 150 people had registered this year and she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the support.
A full report of the careers day will appear in the May issue of Fish Farmer.
Picture: Staff at the Marine Harvest stand (picture Marine Harvest)