Un­der­pin­ning prove­nance

Do we think enough about what gives the in­dus­try its edge in key mar­kets?

Fish Farmer - - Trade Associatio­ns - BY PRO­FES­SOR PHIL THOMAS

It may not be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect to say so at present but farmed At­lantic salmon would not have be­come Scot­land’s lead­ing food ex­port with­out the Crown Es­tate’s pos­i­tive en­gage­ment with aqua­cul­ture de­vel­op­ment back in the 1980s.

Now, aqua­cul­ture is a sig­nif­i­cant part of the agency’s ma­rine leas­ing port­fo­lio and is reg­u­larly cel­e­brated by the Crown Es­tate’s Scot­tish Ma­rine Aqua­cul­ture Awards event. This year’s event in Ed­in­burgh on the 11 June was the usual highly suc­cess­ful show­case for Scot­tish aqua­cul­ture and a rare op­por­tu­nity for in­dus­try to join to­gether to mark its suc­cess.

The Crown Es­tate is presently at the cen­tre of fur­ther devo­lu­tion dis­cus­sions be­tween the UK govern­ment and Scot­tish govern­ment. The long-term fu­ture of key Scot­tish func­tions re­mains un­clear and pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise could be squan­dered in the process of or­gan­i­sa­tional change.

Both the Crown Es­tate’s core ex­per­tise and the Ma­rine Aqua­cul­ture Awards are im­por­tant in main­tain­ing the dis­tinc­tive co­her­ence of Scot­land’s aqua­cul­ture and it would be a tragedy if they be­came ca­su­al­ties of po­lit­i­cal change.

This year’s Awards event was hosted by ac­tress, writer and co­me­dian Jo Caulfield, an in­spired choice by who­ever made the book­ing. She was very funny and en­ter­tain­ing and kept the pro­ceed­ings go­ing with a swing. Only once did she stray, when she won­dered what ‘prove­nance ac­tu­ally meant’.

In a room full of folk whose liveli­hoods de­pend on the prove­nance of their prod­ucts she quickly sensed an au­di­ence re­sponse and moved to safer comedic ma­te­rial: there are some things you just don’t joke about!

How­ever, her re­mark left me ask­ing my­self whether we think enough about the un­der­pin­ning of the prove­nance of Scot­tish farmed fish – and for me that’s farmed salmon.

There is no doubt that Scot­tish prove­nance is im­por­tant to our in­dus­try – it gives us the edge in all our key mar­kets.

Prove­nance can be de­fined in var­i­ous ways but most peo­ple will agree that it goes be­yond the ap­pear­ance and sen­sory qual­i­ties of the fi­nal prod­uct: flavour, tex­ture, vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion and prod­uct con­sis­tency are al­ways key fac­tors in con­sumer ap­peal but prove­nance is about much more.

It re­flects a wider con­cept of con­sumer qual­ity as­sur­ance, in­clud­ing: the place where the fish is grown and pro­cessed; the pro­fes­sional in­tegrity of the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing meth­ods; and the qual­ity, com­mit­ment and care of the peo­ple in­volved – the pro­fes­sional skills, ex­per­tise, pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion of the pro­duc­ers them­selves.

In Scot­land our ‘place of pro­duc­tion’ gives us a huge nat­u­ral ad­van­tage be­cause we grow fish in the pris­tine coastal wa­ters of some of the most beau­ti­ful and wild scenic ar­eas of the world, and our brand is pro­tected by its PGI sta­tus.

Like­wise, adop­tion of the Scot­tish Fin­fish Code of Good Prac­tice al­lied with the in­dus­try’s deep com­mit­ment to a range of in­de­pen­dent farm qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­grammes, in­clud­ing the RSPCA fish wel­fare scheme, builds on the un­der­ly­ing strength of our statu­tory reg­u­la­tory sys­tems to as­sure our pro­duc­tion sys­tems.

Fi­nally, the skills, ex­per­tise, pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion of our farm­ers can be demon­strated in abun­dance day in and day out – and they were show­cased by the re­cent awards event.

How­ever, be­ing wholly ob­jec­tive and for­ward look­ing, it is this third area of prove­nance where the Scot­tish in­dus­try has great­est scope for sys­tem­atic de­vel­op­ment. That is not to say that our in­dus­try’s skills and pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise are not of the high­est cal­i­bre, but it is to recog­nise that our vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tional and train­ing struc­tures, and

We should be or­gan­is­ing our train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sions much bet­ter”

par­tic­u­larly our in-ca­reer ed­u­ca­tional pro­gres­sion and con­tin­u­ous pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, are not as well de­vel­oped, well struc­tured and as co­her­ent as they could be.

Thus this el­e­ment of ‘qual­ity as­sur­ance’ of our peo­ple of­ten rests on an im­per­fectly struc­tured com­bi­na­tion of na­tional ed­u­ca­tion awards, in­clud­ing the now widely adopted Mod­ern Ap­pren­tice­ships, and an ar­ray of statu­to­rily re­quired and in-house or be­spoke train­ing cour­ses.

I be­lieve we re­ally should be or­gan­is­ing our train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sions much bet­ter than this.

Re­cent anal­y­sis by SSPO mem­ber com­pa­nies has high­lighted that the present salmon in­dus­try has an em­ploy­ment frame­work of­fer­ing more than 60 dif­fer­ent jobs, rang­ing from tech­ni­cal farm­ing and pro­cess­ing jobs to man­age­rial po­si­tions in tech­ni­cal ar­eas, mar­ket­ing and busi­ness man­age­ment.

What we now re­quire is an in­dus­try-wide adop­tion of a pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tion as a ba­sic en­try point to the in­dus­try and an ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing frame­work that of­fers ca­reer pro­gres­sion and linked qual­i­fi­ca­tions mov­ing on­wards and up­wards from en­try level to de­gree level and be­yond, with spe­cial­ist op­tions ac­ces­si­ble along the way.

More­over, much of the en­try level train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion should be pro­vided through work based learn­ing, while the higher level stages should en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­brace mod­ern IT-based learn­ing and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems.

That ap­proach would now be re­garded as ‘best prac­tice’ in­ter­na­tion­ally in other sec­tors of the ad­vanced econ­omy and it should be the ob­jec­tive for the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of en­hanced ‘peo­ple prove­nance’ in the Scot­tish aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try.

For more on ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing see page 48.

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