Ivana Russo, assistant formulator, BioMar

AN INSPIRATIONAL new employment campaign has been launched today designed to encourage young people in Scotland to take up careers in the thriving aquaculture sector.

The recruitment drive – led by partners from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), Lantra and Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) – is targeted largely at under 30s including school-leavers, university students, and graduates. The campaign aims to showcase the variety of roles on offer in the sector, highlighting the scope and potential for a rewarding and successful career.

Promoting careers in aquaculture and addressing skills development was one of the key recommendations highlighted in the sector’s 2030 growth strategy. The total number of Scottish jobs supported by aquaculture is predicted to rise from 8,800 to 18,000 over the next decade.

The collaborative campaign was unveiled by Fergus Ewing, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, at an event in Stirling today. The launch was attended by representatives from the sector, higher education, secondary schools and careers services.

Fergus Ewing, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, said: “Scottish aquaculture is thriving and offers amazing careers in some of our most remote and stunning locations. Getting the right people in the right roles and ensuring the future workforce is key to unlocking further sustainable growth in the sector. Whether you are a school leaver or a graduate, it is an exciting time to be part of a sector which enjoys a worldwide reputation for quality, healthy farmed seafood.”

A series of inspirational short films are at the heart of the recruitment drive, featuring a number of young people already working in Scotland’s growing aquaculture sector.

The videos cover the breadth of the sector, from farm management to breeding programmes, and feature young people employed by some of the major players in Scottish aquaculture, from producers such as Dawnfresh, Mowi and the Scottish Salmon Company, to feed maker BioMar and genetics expert Xelect. One of the films also focuses on post-graduate study with a student from Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), University of the Highlands and Islands.

A sector skills review, published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in 2018, identified that there were 1,539 students studying aquaculture-related courses at higher education level. However, a significant gap exists in the number of students embarking on a career in the sector, with only 38% of graduates working or undertaking further study – a figure which is not specific to aquaculture.[2]

Mary Fraser, head of skills and talent at SAIC, said: “Young people are an essential part of the future success and sustainability of aquaculture in Scotland and, as the people featured in our videos show, it can be both an exciting and rewarding career. The opportunities are wide and varied, ranging from working with seafood producers on fish farms to exploring innovation and harnessing data to support new supply chain technology.

“Making decisions about careers can be a daunting prospect for school leavers and graduates, but we hope that this campaign will inspire them to turn their thoughts towards the sector and the potential career paths it can offer. With a new wave of talent, the sector can benefit from new ideas, insight and processes – ultimately helping to future-proof aquaculture in Scotland.”

Development of the career films, to attract young people to the industry, supports the Aquaculture Skills Action Plan led by the Public Sector and Industry Partner Skills Steering Group.

Liz Barron-Majerik, director at Lantra, added: “Lantra was delighted to be involved in this project. It was hugely collaborative from the outset, everyone working together to identify a wide range of individuals who would be best placed to communicate the hugely diverse opportunities within the sector. I think the films clearly demonstrate the passion and enthusiasm of those working in Scottish aquaculture; for their job, the environment and the people they work with.”