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European aquaculture workforce development

Pisces LI are excited to be working with the University of Stirling – Institute of Aquaculture to deliver work packages for the recently confirmed BlueEDU Aquaculture Sector Skills Alliance following a successful bid under the Erasmus+ scheme this year. The article below is abstracted from a Fish Farmer Magazine feature published in the September 2016 edition. Martyn Haines will be presenting “Good Practice in Work Based Assessment” at the European Aquaculture conference on 23rd September at 3.30 pm. and many of the themes referred to below will be examined further.

Article published in the September 2016 edition of Fish Farmer magazine.

European aquaculture workforce development – the dawning of a new opportunity

Over the summer, just as ‘Team GB’ were embarking on their epic journey towards a record medal haul at the Rio Olympic Games, the news broke that the Norwegian led Erasmus + bid to establish a European Sector Skills Alliance for Aquaculture, known by the acronym BlueEDU, had been successful. A week later it was confirmed that a Strategic Partnership (Optimal), designed to pioneer the development of ‘cutting edge’ work based assessment practices, had also been selected, to the jubilation of all involved. As a result of these two Norwegian led projects, the majority of Europe’s fish producing countries now have the opportunity to tackle their workforce development challenges in partnership, over an extended time period. This is a first, and whilst ‘Team GB’ continues to bask in their well deserved glory, something worth reflecting on.

BlueEDU ‘kick off’

A carefully planned and phased approach is envisaged as these two Erasmus+ projects are complementary one to the other and initially span three years. From the kick off meeting in November 2016, the BlueEDU Alliance will support a two year research phase, designed to establish current and future skills needs and the nature of industry demand for education and training in twelve European countries. This includes Norway, the project lead, Scotland, Ireland and the Faroese, all largely dependent on salmon production, along with eight Mediterranean countries, more orientated towards sea bream and bass.

A reliance on cage farming technology is the common denominator, increasing the potential for good practices and learning resources to be shared and transferred, once discovered. The evaluation of the supply of education, training and qualifications from the public and private sectors, including in company schemes, will form a major part of the study. The net will be cast wide in the search for innovative and effective education and training approaches and willing collaborators.

Recognising the industries knowledge and skills

Concurrently, the Optimal Strategic Partners, Norway, Scotland and Ireland, will focus on the development of systems for what educationists refer to as the ‘Recognition of Prior learning’ (RPL). The partners share a vision of a future where experienced aquaculture staff can have their knowledge and skills recognised and validated, ultimately contributing towards the completion of trusted aquaculture qualifications. A well designed RPL system enables providers to personalise education and training plans to target the high priority needs of individual learners, both motivating them and cutting staff development costs. The advances in the application of emerging ‘learning technologies’ to support the development of RPL have been showing great promise in Norway and the ‘Optimal’ partners look forward to piloting their methods in Scotland and Ireland, culminating in an RPL specification to suit the partners needs and practicalities.

Innovative education and training developed in partnership

After the completion of BlueEDU in October 2018 and during the third and final year of the Optimal RPL project, the results will be used to inform a larger bid for an additional 3 year period within which the education and training required by industry, including more innovative delivery approaches, can be developed collaboratively. If all comes to fruition as intended, in total, a six year research and development period will be provided. It is envisaged that a plethora of Pan European education and training partnerships will form, and, through the provision of accessible, high quality, cost effective work based learning, a new working relationship between providers and the aquaculture industry will be forged.

Industry involvement

Members of the industry have been involved directly and indirectly during the 15 month lead in period to both bid submissions. From this point onwards, industry involvement will be widened to fully engage everyone in the producer and aquaculture supply companies from fish husbandry staff to the CEO, in order to make the best of the opportunity. The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) as a core partner will be instrumental in raising awareness of the project aims, as well as disseminating project outcomes on an ongoing basis, through regular communication to their European producer organisation members. A wide range of communication media will be deployed, including; articles in fish farming journals, aquaculture conferences, meetings with industry leaders, industry group seminars and demonstrations, on line surveys, web sites and social media, to ensure that everyone can have their say.

Aquaculture is a rapidly advancing and highly technological specialist field. Consequently, the learning systems we deploy to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding of both our new entrants and more experienced staff, need to be more adaptable, and responsive to personal needs. From an employer’s perspective, they also need to be time and cost efficient, leading to relevant, reliable qualifications that they respect and trust. The BlueEDU partnership looks forward to working with you all over the coming years to transform the way we support our growing workforce.


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