Skills boost for burgeoning Scottish aquaculture

SIMON MacLellan, the talented 24-year-old aquaculture trainee working for Marine Harvest in Lochaber and winner of the Lantra Scotland Aquaculture Learner of the Year Award 2013, is leading a new wave of Modern Apprentices into an expanding fisheries and aquaculture management sector.

With new Government targets for marine production set to increase to 210,000 tonnes and shellfish to 13,000 tonnes by 2020, there are significant and growing career opportunities for school leavers and college graduates looking for a challenging and highly skilled occupation.

The aquaculture industry is currently worth at least £800m per year across the UK, with over 560 aquaculture businesses employing nearly 6000 people.

According to Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, environmental and aquaculture industries, about 50 per cent of these are based in Scotland, with Scottish businesses employing about a third of the entire UK workforce.

The introduction of new talent into the sector has been spearheaded by the success of the Scottish Government’s Modern Apprenticeship programme, which provides a very successful route into work for young people and access to new talent for employers.

The programme offers a unique mix of college-based learning and practical, on-the-job training, which gives young people all the theoretical and practical skill sets that they need to succeed in their chosen careers.

Aquaculture trainee, Simon MacLellan, is cutting his teeth at the sharp end of fisheries management, working with one of Scotland’s leading producers, Marine Harvest.

He is employed in the salmon hatchery side of the business, whilst undertaking the theoretical part of his Modern Apprenticeship Level 3 at Inverness College.

‘I chose aquaculture because I can see this is an industry that is only going to grow,’ he said. ‘Thankfully, as a society, we have come to realise that commercial fishing is unsustainable, and with only two per cent of the world’s oceans farmed, this represents a big opportunity for us all.

‘It is very satisfying to be part of an industry that is geared towards sustainable fish production and I believe being part of the Modern Apprenticeship programme has given me the ideal start to my career.’

Lynn MacFarlane, Training and Human Resources, Officer Marine Harvest, said: ‘As a company we are keen to support our staff with their learning, and we have found that doing the SVQ alongside working on the farm is an effective combination for gaining knowledge and learning skills. Simon’s success as the Aquaculture Learner of the Year 2013 is a great inspiration for all our SVQ students.

‘We have another employee, Jake Handley, who won Student of the Year for SVQ Aquaculture at Inverness College UHI earlier this year. So we are extremely pleased with how well staff are doing.’

Kevin Patrick, Interim Director of Lantra Scotland comments: ‘The aquaculture sector in Scotland has grown steadily over the last few years, and we have seen a rise in demand for skilled personnel.

‘The Aquaculture Modern Apprenticeship programme is a very effective route into work for young people, while providing them with access to new talent for employers.

‘The framework is unique in that it provides a mix of college-based learning with practical, on-the-job training. This provides all the necessary theoretical and practical skill sets that young people need to succeed in their chosen careers.

‘We’re also grateful to Marine Harvest for helping sponsor our land-based and aquaculture learner of the year awards, and to our main sponsor, the Scottish Salmon Company.’