Faced with continued problems attracting workers – an issue exacerbated by the loss of many EU workers who have not returned to Scotland due to Covid and Brexit – the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) has launched a campaign to attract new entrants to the processing sector, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

The campaign highlights the diverse array of skills needed, and training opportunities provided, by a sector that adds considerable value to UK landings, and reduces the UK’s reliance on imported processed fish products.

Over 8,400 people in Scotland currently work in the seafood industry, worth £1.6bn annually, in a diverse range of roles spanning food processing and technology, HR, marketing, commercial and engineering. Seafish is collaborating with the SSA to show the wealth of opportunities available in the sector to help attract people looking to start, progress or change their career.

Entitled ‘Sea A Bright Future’, the campaign will run across radio and digital channels throughout November, including a four-week YouTube campaign.

SSA CEO Jimmy Buchan said: “Scotland’s seafood is amongst the best in the world and is a source of national pride. We need people to come and help us put this amazing seafood on tables all over the world. We’re a busy industry, and we’re about to experience an even busier period in the run-up to Christmas, so it’s essential we find the right candidates for the roles.”

Speaking to Fishing News, Jimmy Buchan confirmed that the lack of shore-based staff was having negative impacts on the catching sector, most particularly in the reduced demand for the smaller sizes of fish, as has been highlighted in recent issues of FN.

He said: “We have had several of our Seafood Scotland members turning down increased orders for product for Christmas, which will directly impact on prices paid for smaller sizes of fish. If we can’t attract this new set of recruits, it is likely that increasing volumes of this prime Scottish fish will be exported for processing elsewhere, at cost to the Scottish economy.

“As an industry, we are currently in transition, and this is a great time for new entrants to start a lifelong career in the industry. As we move towards a highly skilled, better paid workforce, a whole range of new career opportunities will open up to those already inside the industry. Increasingly, for example, workers will be upskilling from processing fish themselves to managing, monitoring, maintaining and programming robotic filleters.

“However, this transition can’t be brought about overnight. We have lost a section of the processing workforce due to Brexit and Covid issues. These staff are now much more expensive to replace, with upfront costs to industry of £7,000 in NHS charges and similar, for anyone recruited through the government visa system.

“Scottish seafood desperately needs a ‘grace and favour’ period, to allow us to bring in the staff that we need, to ensure we can meet the growing demand for prime-quality Scottish fish. This has been granted now to the poultry and meat industries, and we simply are asking for a level playing field.

“This campaign seeks to shine a light on that, and to encourage people to consider a role in the seafood processing sector, particularly young people leaving school or those looking for a mid-career move, such as returning to work after having children.

“There are a wealth of jobs and a lack of candidates, particularly for entry-level factory processing roles. For these entry-level staff, there are still huge prospects available.

If you have ambition and fire in your belly, this is a sector in which there is room to rise to the top.”

The campaign website features examples from a variety of staff in the processing sector, the majority of whom started on the processing floor, but then gained new skills and responsibilities. It also highlights the flexible working arrangements that are available across the sector, and provides examples of careers available, including opportunities on the factory floor, in offices or in laboratories.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.


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