Promote the aquaculture industry to school leavers and graduates, urges HIE

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 23 May 2018 in News

Highlands and Islands Enterprise highlights a gender imbalance in both the industry and education system, as well as an ageing workforce

Scotland should do more to promote the aquaculture industry to school leavers and graduates, according to a new report from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The report, ‘Skills review for the Aquaculture Sector in Scotland’, found the growth of the sector and its supply chain will bring rising demand for skills in engineering, digital and IT, as well as leadership and organisational management.

It also highlights a gender imbalance in both the industry and education system, as well as an ageing workforce.

The study encourages the industry to enhance work based learning and vocational training, and ensure this is accessible to industry employees across the country, particularly in rural areas.

The aquaculture sector, worth over £600m to the Scottish economy, has come under criticism from environmental and sustainability campaigners in recent months, with the National Trust for Scotland urging the Scottish Government to introduce a moratorium on the expansion of fish farms until the sector can improve its environmental record.

Meanwhile a recent report from the Scottish Parliament’s environment committee found that fish mortality was at "unacceptable levels" in fish farms, while warning that the industry would cause "irrecoverable damage" to the marine ecosystem if environmental concerns are not addressed.

But with Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing backing the industry's target to double production by 2030, HIE pointed to the challenges of ensuring the availability of a suitably skilled workforce to meet recruitment demands.

The report highlights the need for more consistency in training to create accredited industry standards that are transferable across the sector, and the development of a digitally enabled workforce.

It recommended that training should be accessible to learners whether they are in employment or full time employment.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This report highlights the importance of developing and retaining a well-trained and highly motivated skills force. For a sector that has a significant focus on sustainable growth in the future, it is clearly becoming even more important to be accessible and to be an employer of choice.

“I look forward to future discussions around how we might look to achieve those aspirations and how we can break down any potential barriers as aquaculture has a key role to play in our economic ambitions, not least through innovation and the provision of highly skilled STEM job roles.”

The report was commissioned by HIE on behalf of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG), and in collaboration with Skills Development Scotland.

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