NAFC aquaculture training team (l-r) Mathew Wright, Stuart Ftitzsimmons, Saro Saravanan,Duncan Kidson (academic quality manager) and Laurence Pearson.

Top marks for Scots aquaculture training programme

The aquaculture training programme at the NAFC Marine Centre, University of the Highlands and Islands, has received the best possible ranking in an external review.

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The audit of NAFC’s Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Aquaculture was carried out by an external verifier on behalf of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

It found “significant strengths” (the SQA’s highest rating) across all areas, including resources, candidate support, and assessments and verification.

Experienced staff

NAFC's hatchery in Scalloway. Image: SAIC.

The external verifier commented that students “were very positive regarding their experiences on the courses” and appreciated the regular contact and support from NAFC staff, who “are highly experienced and qualified”.

The verifier noted that “the wide and often remote geographical distribution of candidates imposes a significant challenge for assessors” but said “the centre continues to provide excellent candidate support in very challenging circumstances... by ensuring regular person to person contact and through the use of a range of communication strategies”.

The verifier also complemented the “rigorous and comprehensive system in place at the centre” for the assessment and verification of students.

Solid foundation

NAFC academic quality manager Duncan Kidson said: “This is an excellent report from the Scottish Qualifications Authority which confirms the high quality of the training delivered for the aquaculture industry by the NAFC Marine Centre. This very positive outcome is due to the commitment, dedication and hard work of the centre’s aquaculture trainers and assessors.

"It provides a solid foundation for the continued delivery of the Modern Apprenticeships in Aquaculture to students throughout Scotland, and for the new Level 4 course in Aquaculture Management. NAFC will continue to work closely with the aquaculture industry and to develop flexible distance-learning courses to meet their training requirements.”


The SVQ qualifications form the basis of the Modern Apprenticeships in Aquaculture offered by NAFC which provide practical on-the-job training and skills development for aquaculture staff, and a progression route and career-development path from first-entry to senior management positions, leading to nationally recognised SQA qualifications.

Training and assessments are mainly carried out at the students’ workplace, but also include some college-based training. The Modern Apprenticeship program is funded by Skills Development Scotland and certificated by Lantra Scotland (the Sector Skills Council).

Through the use of online teaching materials, as well as other distance-learning technology and on-site visits, NAFC staff are able to offer training to students throughout Scotland. Since the programme was launched in 2011, a total of 94 students in Shetland and 61 in Orkney have completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture at Level 2 or Level 3.

A further 51 students from Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and elsewhere in Scotland are currently enrolled on the programme and enrolment for the new Level 4 course in Aquaculture Management will start within the next few weeks.