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Newfoundland steps up efforts to address skills gap

Efforts are underway in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador to expand its aquaculture workforce.


June 18, 2019
By Matt Jones
Exposing the youth to aquaculture by making it a standard part of the school curriculum will hopefully cause a paradigm shift in the way people think about aquaculture Efforts are underway in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador to expand its aquaculture workforce.

Mark Lane, executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA), says projects such as the Marbase Marystown aquaculture service hub, Grieg’s salmon project in Placentia Bay and the arrival of Mowi in the province make attracting talent to the industry an even more crucial task.

“Thankfully,” says Lane, “we have a provincial government that’s very supportive of the industry. They see the growth potential and want to realize that.”

One of these initiatives is to make aquaculture a standard part of the curriculum in primary, elementary and high school classrooms within the next few years. Both the industry and the province are interested in ensuring that students are aware of the opportunities in the aquaculture industry. Preliminary discussions are already underway with Agriculture in the Classroom Canada to develop an equivalent “Aquaculture in the Classroom” program for the province.

“We need a paradigm shift,” says Lane. “I equate it with recycling. When I was growing up, it was the beginning of the paradigm shift in the way of thinking about recycling. For my kids, it’s a no-brainer; they don’t think about it, it’s just the way we do things. We want aquaculture to be like that.”

There are also plans to engage with students on social media and to develop a high-caliber interactive website for aquaculture. The website would answer any questions about sustainability or traceability, but would also have a youth-engagement component where students can learn about the industry.

Lane also hopes that virtual reality technology can be used as part of these experiences. While the technology is, in Lane’s words “trendy and modern,” it could be used to very effectively demonstrate the vast range of opportunities within the aquaculture industry.

“Once you’re on the farm, you’ll see all these people – you’ll see the captain of a crew boat, you see the farm technician, the farm manager, the nutritionist, the veterinarian. The thing I want to do is show people the different selection of job opportunities out there. Aquaculture is here to stay and it’s growing immensely worldwide. I want to bring that opportunity to people who are passionate about working outdoors and working to produce a sustainable protein.”

In addition to bolstering the homegrown workforce, the province is also looking at ways to bring in skilled workers from other parts of the world. In 2020, a pilot project with Memorial University will begin recruiting some graduates of a marine institute degree program from Tra Vinh University in Vietnam. Five graduates will be selected to work in the industry in Newfoundland, who can bring along their families. “One of the biggest reasons we’ve identified for immigrants not staying in Newfoundland is they don’t have a community. We want to bring that community to ensure that we maximize success and they become residents of Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Lane.