The most relevant highlights that the aquaculture farming and supply industry outline, are:
- Recruitment: There is a general agreement that companies and farms are highly reliant on local recruitment and many are currently experiencing recruitment problems, especially when trying to fill managerial positions. Recruitment from local communities are considered important by over 80% of the participants.
- Staff development: Most felt that due to the rapid development and deployment of new equipment and technologies, continuous updating of staff was most important. The aquaculture subject areas selected as being of highest priority were fish health, aquaculture equipment, environmental monitoring, the use of digital technologies and fish feeding.
- Aquaculture VET qualifications: A general lack of access to flexible aquaculture VET courses and qualifications ahs been highlighted. Most companies beleave that good ‘knowledge and skills’ definitions would be useful to inform VET development. Many go on to confirm that they believe that the assessment process must be reliable, to ensure that qualifications provide an accurate indication of a person’s real knowledge and skills. More than 2 out of 3 persons consider the continuous updating of knowledge and skills to be important to keep up with rapid technical developments.
- Aquaculture course delivery modes: Respondents saw value in a range of aquaculture course delivery modes, including; short courses of 1-2 days duration, non-formal in company training and work-based training leading to a National Qualification (NQ). This gives an indication of the type of ‘blended VET programs’ that industry may be receptive to in the future
Extensive industry engagement and data collection has been undertaken by the SSA-BlueEDU project (2016-19) in the Mid–Norway Trondheim region, the epicentre of Norwegian farmed salmon production. This revealed that there was widespread industry support for the main national aquaculture national qualifications (NQ) - "fagbrev". Challenges with recruitment in an environment of rapid growth and technological advance is apparent and has led to an influx of mature unqualified entrants, many of whom are migrants and predominantly work in fish processing. Whilst the "fagbrev" relied on by industry can be accessed by mature, unqualified staff, survey responses indicated that companies may vary regarding their level of commitment to supporting staff to complete the program during their employment. Approximately 45% of the staff at the cages lack NQs. This percentage is for just one company, equivalent to 200 persons. 2 out of 3 persons that have been recruited during the last 5-6 years, lack NQs.
Interestingly, during interviews, farming companies in Norway, Iceland and Scotland have highlighted the importance of capacities such as collaboration and cooperation, which reflects the way the farming companies themselves are cooperating to solve aquaculture problems, despite being competitors in the same market place. This may be symptomatic of a maturing industry, and it is possible that the same collaborative spirit may be applied to the development of improved formal work-based VET delivery systems needed to address the anticipated future recruitment challenges.
At Iceland there is an emerging industry with prospects of rapid expansion through Norwegian investment, but no existing aquaculture VET supply. The industry funded Blue Line project (2017-18) started the first aquaculture VET courses based up on the Norwegian model. They did start offering the first course in August 2018 at Iceland.
The target groups are personnel that work with production of salmon and trout within the areas: hatcheries, smolt, farming at sea farms and processing plants. Teachers at aquaculture VET schools.
The objectives are to design, develop, test and validate new delivery modes for NQ that:
- Train staff at the marine cages to include staff from other farms during problem solving processes in the production. This will be done by applying a new type of open cases that requires collaboration and cooperation between farms in order to be solved.
- Apply pre-testing of skills, knowledge and experience to adjust what the teachers teach during the on-site training. To verify if the current assumption of "5 years of documented relevant experience" is valid as a recruitment track for staff from aquaculture industry to VET courses.
- To utilize more of e-learning in order to offer more flexible training paths. This will be supported by unitization of the curriculum, as inspired by the Scottish Quality Authority system.