Chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, Scott Landsburgh, said: “This is a very positive week for salmon farming in Scotland. Not only has the industry been independently recognised for its economic value but we can also show the impact our industry is having on local communities in which our salmon grow.
“The number of people enrolled on Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programmes has grown steadily over the past few years, with the vast majority based in the Highlands and Islands where long term career opportunities can be difficult to find.
“Training and development is key to ensure our industry grows sustainably and that’s why industry has not restricted opportunities to school leavers alone. There are a number of options available to people of all ages. One of our member companies also enrols employees on National Progression Awards in aquaculture, enabling candidates to use their experience of the sector as a path to further study to advance their career.”
Manager for Scottish Sea Farms Foreholm site, Chris Kelly, began his career in salmon farming almost 25 years ago, working on farms near his home in Shetland at weekends and during school holidays.
Aged 16, Chris was offered an Apprenticeship SVQ Level 2 in Aquaculture through his first employer, Viking Salmon, which ran in conjunction with the North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) in Shetland. Chris joined Scottish Sea Farms in 1999 as a farm worker before being promoted to manager at the Flotta site 12 years ago. Chris said: “It wasn’t until I began training people who were new to the industry that I realised just how much knowledge I had picked up throughout my career. It was one of the reasons why I decided to return to NAFC ten years ago to formalise what I learned by working towards an SVQ Level 3 in Aquaculture.”
Since then, Chris has helped train up a new generation of salmon farmers including Cameron Jones, originally from Plockton, a small village on the West Coast of Scotland. Cameron is in his second year of a Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture with Scottish Sea Farms.
Cameron enjoys the Scottish rural lifestyle and researched the programme to find out exactly what career opportunities farming salmon in Scotland could offer. Scottish Sea Farms quickly responded to his application and offered him an apprenticeship based in Shetland. Cameron said: “It was far too good an opportunity to miss and although it meant moving miles from home I just went for it!”
He began his apprenticeship in June 2013 at Mangaster site near Brae, Shetland and attended college each month to learn the theory behind Aquaculture, focusing on the importance of working safely, and understanding the different roles and responsibilities of industry employees. Cameron has since completed the course work for SVQ Levels 2 and 3 ahead of schedule and commented:
“I have really enjoyed the MA Aquaculture. It has given me huge insight into the industry and opened the door to a number of career opportunities. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to farm and how to work with the team at Mangaster.
“When I graduate, I'd like to move closer to home and continue to work full time for Scottish Sea Farms. I've looked into university courses in Aquaculture and it is possible to do a degree part time, so I would look to apply next year and see if I get in, this would give me a huge boost in the industry.”
The Scottish salmon farming industry employs almost 2500 people in Scotland. Many more local business, suppliers and service providers benefit from ongoing capital investment and industry spend on service provision.