Returners programme opens the door to aquaculture careers in the Highlands and Islands

Mary Fraser and Teresa Garzon of WiSA

WOMEN in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) has today launched a new initiative to support women in rural Scotland to return to the workplace after career breaks – focusing on the range of opportunities available within the aquaculture sector.

Backed by the Scottish Government’s Women Returners Fund, WiSA will support up to 50 women with career coaching, confidence training and mentoring, empowering them to step back into employment. The programme aims to raise awareness of the varied career opportunities within aquaculture, while allowing participants to develop relationships and make contacts through WiSA’s network of members from the sector and academia.

The month-long series of free workshops and events will kick off with an introduction to aquaculture, led by WiSA and the Scottish Salmon Company, developed specifically for participants who may not have worked in the sector before.

Later sessions will include careers and performance coaching, interview skills, CV writing and confidence building, delivered by training and coaching providers, Positive Performance and Skillfluence. WiSA has also teamed up with rural enterprise support organisation, GrowBiz, to deliver one-to-one mentoring sessions between the initiative’s aspiring participants and experienced aquaculture professionals.

The WiSA network aims to promote diversity within aquaculture, supporting career development, and encouraging new talent into the burgeoning sector. The group was founded in partnership with the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and launched on International Women’s Day 2019 to celebrate the role of women in the sector.

Evidence from the Scottish Government suggests that women still face barriers when returning to work after an extended absence, with many experiencing a ‘motherhood penalty’ following maternity leave. The Women Returners Fund was established to help to address some of these issues, with a focus on rebuilding skills, knowledge and confidence.

Teresa Garzon, WiSA co-chair, said: “The aquaculture industry is thriving and there is a wide range of exciting opportunities available to women in rural parts of Scotland – whether they have worked in the sector before, or if it is brand new to them. Our returners programme aims to give women the skills and confidence to get back into employment and address any of the challenges they might face on their return.

“Aquaculture is a forward-thinking, innovative industry and access to a diverse talent pool will be a crucial element of helping the sector to continue to grow. Through the WiSA network, we hope to create a positive community that supports professional development and provides women with the tools and skills needed to help build successful and rewarding careers.”

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