Scottish Seafood Association prepares to cut a new future

Michael Sim discusses the training programme with Graeme TAllis of GT Seafoods
Michael Sim discusses the training programme with Graeme TAllis of GT Seafoods

The Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) is spearheading a two-year pilot project to attract and prepare new entrants for a career in seafood processing and to train and upskill the existing workforce, an initiative which will be key to raising industry standards and delivering sectoral growth.

The project approved by NE Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group (NESFLAG) includes funds for training equipment and a part-time training post for the duration of the two-year pilot.

Following further contributions from seafood companies, Seafish (via the Scottish Seafood Training Network), Aberdeenshire Council and Scottish Government the project is to be expanded to a four-day per week programme.

Michael Sim - a highly respected and vastly experienced figure in the field of seafood industry training - has been secured to lead the project.

SSA will deliver a range of specialised courses certified to Royal Environment Health Institute for Scotland (REHIS) and Seafish standards, including Food Hygiene, HACCP, Health & Safety, Raw Material Sensory Assessment and Fish Smoking training to upskill the existing workforce, while new entrants to industry will be provided with a structured induction programme covering health and safety, basic knife skills and food hygiene.

Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Buchan explained that while the seafood sector already has to contend with many operational challenges day-to-day, it must also be prepared for new opportunities on the horizon. SSA will interact closely with its members and the wider seafood industry to identify knowledge and skills gaps and will be designing training provision to address those needs.

A key component of the new initiative will be getting out into wider community and into schools, colleges and the hospitality sector to promote seafood industry-related careers. This project aligns closely with Scottish Government’s Ambition 2030 strategy which aims to double the value of the Scottish food and drink sector to £30 billion by 2030. Jimmy said 2030 is only 12 years away and that seafood is the most valuable segment of the Scottish food sector, so the project is perfectly timed to turbocharge progress towards Ambition 2030.

Derek McDonald, Industry Support Executive (Rural & Maritime) of Aberdeenshire Council, who has been closely involved in the project said: “The timing of the pilot project fits perfectly with the emerging business opportunities across the seafood sector. By improving skills and accreditation standards and making the industry more attractive as a career of choice, there is a tremendous opportunity to secure a larger share of seafood value-add from local landings. The wider seafood sector is already a vitally important part of the local economy and Aberdeenshire Council is delighted to help drive its continuing economic growth through this project.”

Technical advice and training will be delivered over a 24-month period by Michael Sim, former Managing Director of Young’s Seafood in Fraserburgh. Michael said: “This is a great opportunity for the seafood sector to be be trail blazers, and by investing in people and skills now, gives business an added advantage in the market now and in the future.

“Trained and motivated staff improves productivity, reduces accidents and improves industry reputation. The seafood processing sector is a valuable asset to Scotland, and this project will be invaluable in delivering a skilled and trained industry which fits well with the long term Scottish Government Food and Drink vision.”

Jimmy explained that the project will be an important stepping stone for the processing sector to prepare for anticipated growth opportunities. Brexit will carry risks as well as opportunities and SSA must help the membership and the wider seafood sector to prepare for the future and mitigate risk where possible.

“If we look at the large-scale infrastructure investment in the ports of Lerwick, Fraserburgh and Peterhead and still further investment in new fishing vessels to harvest our growing fish stocks, we must start investing much more in people and skills for the processing sector to ensure that our coastal communities are the primary beneficiaries of any uplift in fish quotas. This project is an important piece of that strategic economic jigsaw and SSA is extremely grateful for the support pledged by its partners.”

Scottish Government spokesman John Davidson of Scotland Food and Drink, said: “The project fits well with the growth strategy of Scottish Government where people can make seafood processing a chosen career which keeps skills in the communities. It is important to us as a government, to improve the economies of industry and assist where possible to support forward thinking initiatives.”