Hi-time to consider the recruitment data

Christopher Snelgrove delves into the data from HiJOBS to gain some further insight into recruitment trends in Scotland’s aquaculture sector.

Our ambition when we launched HiJOBS back in 2013 was to give Scotland, and crucially the Highlands & Islands and rural communities, a dedicated recruitment website that showcased the breadth of career opportunities, prompting the region as one of the best places in the world to live and work. With the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) estimating that the industry has created over 10,000 across the country, aquaculture has remained a key priority.  

In the last two years, we’ve promoted 465 related aquaculture jobs, and the data from those job posts provides an interesting snapshot of recruitment. 

Growing demand is driving jobs

Scotland’s aquaculture industry continues to experience a period of significant and increasingly rapid change. Driven by technological advancements, shifting consumer preferences, and growing environmental concerns, we’re seeing a significant rise in demand for skilled professionals in the industry, alongside new career opportunities for those seeking to enter or progress within this exciting and dynamic sector.  

Given the rapid rise in retail demand and exports in the last two years, particularly for Scottish salmon, and subsequent investment and site expansion undertaken by the likes of Mowi Scotland and Bakkafrost Scotland, it may come as little surprise that HiJOBS saw the number of advertised aquaculture positions in 2022 increase by 28% on 2020’s figures.  

Salaries are continuing to rise

The median salary for aquaculture jobs advertised in Q1 2023 was £26,500 per annum. This represents an increase of over 14% in the same period for 2022.

Excluding overtime and bonuses, standard in many roles within the sector, the average median salary for aquaculture jobs advertised on HiJOBS in Q1 2023 was £26,500 per annum. This represents an increase of over 14% in the same period for 2022, making it one of the few industries that have managed to keep salaries at pace with the UK’s spiralling inflation last year.

This rise in average salaries reported by HiJOBS comes as no surprise to Donald Waring, Learning and Development Manager, Mowi Scotland, who agrees that like many of their counterparts, his business has worked hard to keep salaries competitive. “Needless to say, maintaining the attractiveness of the industry to entice new talent and try to reduce the impact of the cost of living crisis on employees is a huge priority. That said, it is just one part of the puzzle.

“Competitive salaries are great, but we also need to drive awareness and dismiss misconceptions on a local level, especially with schools and parents.  If our communities were better informed about the diverse range of jobs, career pathways, and robust salary brackets that can compete with any Scottish city, we could significantly grow our appeal to young talent.”

Companies are embracing Modern Apprenticeships 

One of the pleasing insights from the research was the recruitment of nine aquaculture SVQ Verifiers and Assessors. This is a clear indication of the increase of people within the industry undertaking skills training. Across the board, commercial businesses are embracing more collaborative working, particularly with UHI’s network to deliver SVQ Levels 3,4 and 5 in Aquaculture. It’s no coincidence that Cooke Aquaculture proudly highlights over 15% of staff are completing Modern Apprenticeships in aquaculture, engineering and business administration.  

Aquaculture apprenticeships are also evolving. A very welcome development seeing an increased focus on sustainability to ensure that the aquaculture apprenticeship frameworks fulfill industry needs, while providing viable career transitions away from oil and gas to low-carbon sectors such as aquaculture.

Leadership and management roles

Our data showed that alongside roles such as biologists and engineers, there was a significant demand for management and leadership roles, including site and area managers, planners and marketing positions.  This is in part brought on by the sector suffering from a talent drain of more senior staff, driven in part by people reaching retirement age. To counter this, supporting younger talent to upskill and take on leadership roles is essential. 

While larger Apprenticeship Levy-paying employers such as Mowi Scotland or Scottish Sea Farms can benefit from up to £15,000 towards training, there is a huge opportunity for SMEs within the sector to take advantage of additional support available. 

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF) offers SMEs up to £5,000 training grants for upskilling and reskilling of existing staff. The only university with access to the Scottish Government’s funded initiative, The Open University in Scotland, offers a vast range of quality courses that can complement practical the more practical SVQ qualifications. This includes business and leadership, project management, digital skills and sustainability.

Speaking about the initiative, Tim Lewis, Business Relationships Manager, Open University (Scotland) said:

“The FWDF presents a huge opportunity for employers within Scotland’s fish farming industry and currently awareness is surprisingly low. The Open University works in partnership with businesses to develop a flexible and tailored solution that will help address their specific skills gaps. It’s a win-win, helping retain good staff, enhance productivity and build your business, at little or no cost to the employer or employee.”

This has been the first time HiJOBS has looked to interrogate our data on aquaculture roles and is something that we plan to revisit on an annual basis, providing a snapshot of emerging new roles, average salaries and job locations, which can help inform the industry and prospective employees. 

Scotland is undergoing a significant period of change, driven by technological advancements, shifting consumer preferences, and growing environmental concerns. With this change comes a shift in the demand for skilled professionals in the industry, creating new career opportunities for those seeking to enter or progress within this exciting and dynamic sector.  

Christopher Snelgrove is the Technical Director and Co-Founder of HIJOBS.net, the Scottish dedicated recruitment website. Over 80% of the Highlands and Islands workforce is now registered on HiJOBS, which has established specialisms across Scotland’s strongest and growing job sectors including aquaculture and renewable energy

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