Companies in aquaculture and related services are being invited to take part in a study to determine the future skills needs of the sector as it grows.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned ekosgen and Imani Development to undertake the study in response to recommendations in the Industry Strategy “Aquaculture Growth to 2030”.

The strategy makes a series of recommendations to support the growth of the sector and these are overseen by the Aquaculture Industry Leaders Group (AILG).

The study will involve consultation and survey work to explore the scale and composition of the aquaculture workforce, the current and future skills requirements of the sector and the skills pipeline that feeds it.  Findings will inform the development of an Industry Workforce Planning Strategy and Action Plan.

Sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector will depend on many factors, one of which is the availability of expertise as companies within the sector expand and need to recruit suitably qualified people.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This Government is committed to supporting Scotland’s aquaculture sector to continue to grow in a sustainable way.

“This mapping work will help to ensure that we have the right skills in the right places in the sector and have a plan in place to address any gaps and I would encourage all with an interest to participate.  Being the workplace of choice and attracting a diverse and multi skilled workforce will be essential to maintaining the momentum and ambition within the sector.”

Stewart Graham, managing director of Gael Force and co-chair of the AILG, added: “Feedback from the fin fish producers has consistently been that people and their skills are a significant potential constraint to our sectors’ growth plans going forward.

"This of course is closely tied to the availability and affordability of rural housing which is a high level challenge for the government and private sector supply. Skills mapping however is something the industry can and must take a lead on now to plan for the future and I would plead with all producers and the wider supply chain to fully engage with this mapping exercise so that we can get ahead of the curve on our future skills needs.”  

David Reid, HIE’s regional skills manager, said: “Aquaculture is hugely significant in the rural economy. The sector provides valuable skilled employment in many coastal and island communities, where conditions are ideal for growing finfish, shellfish and seaweeds.

“With growing international demand there will be great opportunities for the sector, but also challenges. To capitalise on those opportunities companies will need access to suitably skilled people who can help meet their growth needs. We need to hear from companies what they see as their workforce needs going forward and work with our partners in the AILG to make sure those resources are available when the time comes.”

Ekosgen is contacting businesses in the aquaculture sector and its supply chain over the next few weeks to invite them to take part in a consultation or online survey.