A new third level course aimed at the aqua business sector has been launched in Wexford by a leading expert in the international fisheries and aquaculture sector.
Dr. Sigurdur Grétar Bogason has over 30 years experience in the area and in launching the Higher Diploma in Business in Aqua-business course, said the Irish seafood sector needs to be equipped with proper and relevant skills.
The launch took place at County Hall and the course will be run through the Wexford Campus of Institute of Technology, Carlow (ITC).
Dr. Bogason made reference to areas such as business, financial management, marketing, law and innovation as being essential for sustainability and growth.
The course will be aimed at the next generation of seafood producers, managers and entrepreneurs, and it is also the only Level 8 programme of its kind in the country. It's the result of a collaboration between IT Carlow, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), and IFA Aquaculture.
Those at the launch were told that many 'key figures' in the seafood sector are graduates of a similar, and very successful, three-year degree programme currently being delivered in Iceland.
Dr. Bogason said Ireland has to be mindful of Brexit and how it will affect trade and that education will be key to addressing new challenges: 'Equipping the sector with the education and skills it needs is essential to the realisation of a strong and sustainable seafood sector that can meet whatever challenges lie ahead.'
The course, which is aimed at producers, managers and entrepreneurs, has strong links with the industry and in addition to lectures, will include work placements and site visits. There will also be guest lecturers involved who will give students expert insight into the industry.
According to BIM's, Business of Seafood report, the industry currently employs over 14,000 people in Ireland and a Government policy document on the sector marked training as essential for continued growth.
An important component of Irish industry, the aqua business sector is worth around €118m to the Irish economy and aquaculture employs almost 2,000 jobs in rural areas. According to the National Strategic Plan and the Seafood Operational Programme 2020, aquaculture is 'a strong, sustainable and popular strategic asset for development and job creation'. Ireland has also been at the forefront of organically certified farmed fish for over 25 years.
However, the industry faces challenges and that's something that the people who devised the new course hope to help address. An extra 10,000 tonnes of organicially certified farmed salmon would add around €250m to the Irish economy and create over 1,000 new jobs.
The new course will provide participants with hands-on, practical experience of the industry in addition to classroom based tuition, and it's that aspect of the course that it's hoped will equip the participants with all of the necessary skills required to lead the domestic industry here going forward.
Dr Janette Davis, who is Deputy Head of the ITC Wexford Campus, said the programme is specifically aimed at catering for the needs of the seafood sector.
'Its pioneering nature means that we have students travelling the length and breadth of the country to participate in this programme,' she said.
The Chairperson of BIM, Jim O'Toole, was also at the launch and said his organisation's involvement was as part of its wider education and skills strategy which he said will help 'future-proof' Ireland's burgeoning seafood sector.
'Last year the Irish seafood sector recorded its third consecutive year of growth,' he said.
'The continued success of the sector is dependent on having a skilled workforce,' he added.
One of the first students to take up the programme is Irish Mussel Seed Company director, Kate Dempsey, who is a finalist in the upcoming, Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur Awards.
She also spoke at the launch and having said entrepreneurs need a good understanding of all aspects of their business, said the course had broadened her knowledge and enabled her to 'confidently promote and develop' her company.
For more information on the course log onto www.itcarlow.ie.