Developing skills for the workforce of the future in aquaculture - MOWI - Scotland

Developing skills for the workforce of the future in aquaculture

This was the hot topic discussed at Aquaculture Day during Ideas Week hosted by the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce in November.

Our Learning and Development Manager Donald Waring presented to businesses in Lochaber, many of which are part of the aquaculture supply chain, and also joined a panel discussion with Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland.

Tavish Scott summed up the day: “The Lochaber Chamber Aquaculture Day reflected the positive outlook for salmon farming in the area. The sector is a major component of the local economy and Mowi’s recent announcement on processing investment in Fort William is a hugely positive signal for the long-term future. As we look forward to 2022 with a review of regulation, a new government vision for the sustainable future of the sector and more progress toward our net zero goal by 2045 in growing healthy, nutritious fish for the marketplace, the outlook for the Lochaber area looks strong.”

Skills for the future

Donald (pictured above) discussed the recruitment challenges for the sector, exacerbated by Brexit and Covid-19, but also the opportunities for young people growing up in Lochaber to follow a career path in aquaculture that enables them to earn more and stay in the area.

Donald explained: “Aquaculture Day was a fantastic opportunity to highlight the opportunities for young people in our industry as well as changing perceptions of the skills that companies like Mowi are going to require in the future as more and more technology is introduced into every aspect of our operations.

“For example, whilst we’ve always had a need for mechanical engineers, in the future, we will also need software engineers. With the introduction of robots into our fish processing centres, coupled with the already successful addition of technology on feed barges, we are also going to need people who are skilled at data analysis to interpret the data generated throughout the whole process of rearing salmon.”

Working with education providers

Mowi has spent the last few years building strong relationships with education providers in the region to create learning opportunities and make it easier for young people to move straight from education into work.

Donald continues: “Recruiting locally benefits everybody – if I tell a school leaver that the average starting salary at Mowi is £21,000 versus £14,000 as a call centre handler in the central belt, then that’s pretty compelling.

“We need to double our efforts to attract young people into aquaculture as well as supporting education providers to develop the necessary skills amongst school pupils. I believe that needs to start early. For example, the introduction of Newton Rooms across Scotland is a great way of developing STEM skills and Mowi has been only too happy to get involved in this initiative. The introduction of SVQs in aquaculture was a significant milestone but I’d like to see the introduction of a Foundation SVQ in aquaculture so that young people can develop the appropriate knowledge and skills whilst still at school.”

One example of a successful collaboration between Mowi and an education provider is West Highland College UHI in Mallaig, where there are currently 18 young people following the Maritime and Aquaculture Skills NQ Level 5. Mowi has guaranteed all students an interview at the end of the course to help prepare them for the world of work. Mowi also helped Grace King, who did work experience at our Loch Ness farm, to get on to the course and has already hired one student, Lewis Miller, to work at our Loch Alsh farm where he will join Kendal Hunter’s team, another success story from our graduate programme.


Ideas Week followed COP26 and inevitably there was a focus on sustainability during the day, both in presentations given and in the panel discussion. Again, for Donald, this highlights another opportunity for the sector to engage with young people.

“Our young people are the most passionate in society about environmental issues and creating a sustainable future for all. There is overwhelming evidence and research that demonstrates the sustainability of aquaculture and the increased role that blue foods like farm-raised salmon will play to feed a global population. This is a message young people need to hear so that they can be part of that journey.”

For young people considering a career in aquaculture or to see our current vacancies, please visit

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