Centre is first to offer sea fishing apprenticeship

The class during a net-mending lesson. From left: Callum Irvine (Arcturus), Christopher Irvine (Tranquillity), Ben Irvine (Defiant), NAFC fisheries technician Arthur Johnson, Scott Hutchison (Venturous) and Andrew Hutchison (Fairway II).

The class during a net-mending lesson. From left: Callum Irvine (Arcturus), Christopher Irvine (Tranquillity), Ben Irvine (Defiant), NAFC fisheries technician Arthur Johnson, Scott Hutchison (Venturous) and Andrew Hutchison (Fairway II).

Shetland’s NAFC Marine Centre is the first training provider in Scotland to deliver a new modern apprenticeship (MA) in sea fishing.

Five Shetland students are on the two-year course, which started last week.

The modern apprenticeship in sea fishing was launched in the UK in 2013 and allows students to undertake their studies while working on a UK fishing vessel.

Jan Rigden, head of Shetland School of Nautical Studies, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this new course at the centre. The fishing industry is hugely important to the islands’ economy, so it’s crucial that we can provide the next generation of fishermen with the right skills, knowledge and practical experience to embark on a career at sea.

“This course is made up of a mixture of both classroom and practical learning.

“Each student works on board a local fishing vessel so that they can build up their experience and also put the theory that they have learnt into practice.

“Once they have some skills and knowledge from the centre, they will be taking a workbook away to sea in which the boats’ skipper or mate can record their progress as they become more competent.

“We are very grateful to the Shetland skippers for offering placements onboard their vessels.

“This demonstrates their commitment to training the fishermen of the future; the practical experience and collection of evidence of performance on board is an integral part of the programme.

“After successfully completing the course, the students will be qualified deck hands. They will have gained valuable safety certificates and will have built up the sea time and experience to progress in their fishing career.”

Fisheries technician, Arthur Johnson, teaches some of the practical elements. He said: “I am currently working with the students on a net mending unit, which is part of the wider modern apprenticeship programme.

“We start off with basic net mending which builds up to more complicated repair problems.

“The class will then move on to a unit which includes net construction where they put a trawl together from scratch, this is a great way of demonstrating how to put together different parts of a trawl, which they may well encounter with everyday net repair aboard boats.

“The plan, if time allows, is to take the boys out on our training vessel, the Atlantia,  so that they can see the trawl working and also see how high the net can stand from the headline sensor on the trawl.

“I believe that this is a very effective way of learning. Rather than just explaining to them how to mend, test, and monitor the nets, they get the chance to try it out for themselves, thanks to the fantastic facilities here at the centre.”

Student, Christopher Irvine from Whalsay said: “I decided to do this course because I thought it would be a good way of getting into fishing and gain some good qualifications.

“This modern apprenticeship follows on from the three-week introduction to commercial fishing course which I did last year.

“I enjoy studying at the NAFC Marine Centre; the teachers are great and really helpful. My long term plan would be to build up enough sea time so that I can sit my class one skipper’s ticket.”

Ben Irvine, also from Whalsay, added: “We have just begun our first six-week classroom block and, once that’s finished, we will go back to sea on our training vessels. I’m working onboard the Defiant.

“We have already covered net mending and construction as well as learning Morse code. So far, I’ve found it all really interesting.”

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