Posted on May 01, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Island aquaculture training gets provincial funding boost

Advanced aquaculture training will be offered through North Island College’s Campbell River campus to meet increasing demand from the industry for skilled workers.

The province is contributing $600,000 to the college to implement the program, as aquaculture careers are promoted to First Nations, high school students and others looking for work.

“Aquaculture over the last number of years has become a much more sophisticated business and our members are certainly looking for a higher degree of skill and education with respect to employees that are entering into the industry,” said Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

“Over the last number of years, the highest trained people are coming into the industry after going to programs in New Brunswick or in Ontario, where they have a higher level and more robust educational programs.

North Island College already offers aquaculture technician training. The new diploma will see higher levels of technical training offered in new courses starting in 2018 and 2019, to serve 40 students.

“These upper-level aquaculture programs are designed with local students and employers in mind,” said Randall Heidt, North Island College’s vice-president of strategic initiatives. “They recognize the skills students already have and provide opportunities for them to develop strong careers in their own communities.

Aquaculture has provided work in coastal communities affected by the downturn in commercial fishing over the years. Today, the industry has 2,500 direct employees, Dunn said.

Other educational institutions in B.C. provide aquaculture training, such as Vancouver Island University, Excel Career College and the University of British Columbia.

Diploma holders could perform tasks such as feeding fish, monitoring fish behaviour using high-tech equipment and running environmental tests. “You need to know a high degree of information about the area that you are raising your animals in so that you can provide the right nutrition at the right time of day and ensuring that you are raising high-quality fish,” Dunn said.

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