McKillop S, Bostock J, Haines M & Stav JB (2019) D 3.1 Analysis and investigations of existing studies and research-based data on skills gaps in aquaculture industry and VET supply [WP3 Analysis and Investigation]. European Commission. http://www.stimuli.no/sites/default/files/u19/BlueEDU_D31_ExistingStudies_Final.pdf
Vocational Education and Training (VET) is an important component of any national educational system and supports workforce development in many fish producing European countries. The role VET plays in the education system is sometimes understated, and qualifications achieved through VET are perceived by some to be of a low quality or second rate. However, VET can offer an important and accessible education pathway that can prepare an individual for a specific job, thereby helping them to find initial employment, or improve their practical skills and knowledge for their current role. The low perception of VET in some countries as a credible educational pathway does not always apply in every sector. For example, VET is central to certain trades such as construction and engineering which are generally held in higher regard. Conversely, there appears to be some negative association with employment in aquaculture which is seen as a last resort in some countries. This can make it difficult to promote aquaculture VET as a career path due to the negative social association in countries where higher education in university is the aspiration of many. A Cedefop public opinion survey carried out in 2017 (2) found that VET may not be viewed with high regard as an educational pathway by those surveyed, but the general perception was that VET can prepare people well for the world of work and is a positive pathway towards finding employment.
Web based research for specific VET in each of the 12 BlueEDU countries included in the project confirmed that each country does have a formal VET system, but frequently, an aquaculture or aquaculture related curriculum is missing. There is evidence to suggest that most countries do have some form of aquaculture education and training activity, but this is commonly fragmented, informal and lacking structure, or aimed at higher education.
Identifying aquaculture VET currently available is an essential first step in establishing who is delivering what, where and how. The research for BlueEDU revealed that there is an existing VET system in each of the BlueEDU countries, but a very limited number of aquaculture VET programmes. This was an expected result but still something that had to be confirmed. Norway and Scotland both have long established VET systems that are respected and well structured. Both systems have benefits that could bring positive results if they were replicated in other countries. The system in Norway is well supported across the country by the Norwegian aquaculture industry, whereas the system in Scotland appears to be confined to delivery from two centres, NAFC in the Northern Isles and Inverness College, both of which are part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). The systems used in both Norway and Scotland are currently being evaluated by other countries aiming to setup an aquaculture VET system to support their growing industries, namely, Iceland and Faroe Islands.
There are aquaculture VET systems ongoing in Spain, France, Italy and Greece although the options available in Italy and Greece are very limited. France has a well-established VET and aquaculture full time course provision distributed across the country. There is however a general lack of aquaculture VET provision in southern European countries where tertiary education at university is held in high esteem. Information on countries in southern Europe was difficult to obtain as online searches would reveal very limited information. Requests for information sent to contacts generally received little or no response. There have been several EU supported projects in southern Europe that have developed a wide range of learning tools aimed at:
• fish health monitoring and disease control,
• improving fish welfare,
• improving skills and general aquaculture knowledge,
• creation of an aquaculture glossary,
• improve research knowledge and infrastructure and
• creation of a Europe wide networking system.
These initiatives have led to the creation of a number of online courses and training tools that could be utilised by any aquaculture VET system to help address knowledge gaps. It appears that most of the resources created are no longer in use or are rarely used. This may be down to the lack of effective promotion and they may be put to good use if updated and promoted to a wider audience.
Vocational education; training; aquaculture