UK government: Seafood sector must work together to boost career appeal

Published on
July 3, 2019

While the United Kingdom's seafood industry provides thousands of full- and part-time jobs, there are concerns that not enough young people are being recruited to sustain this workforce.

At a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries Secretariat (APPG) – a cross-party body focused on issues affecting the U.K. fishing and seafood sector – stakeholders within the industry informed the group of the challenges they see in attracting young employees. Despite the diversity of careers on offer, young people entering the jobs market see the seafood sector as unattractive employment. There was also consensus that this challenge would be best tackled by the industry working together to show that seafood careers are an opportunity worth seizing, along with clearer messaging on the array of seafood careers available.

"The biggest challenge is awareness of the opportunities within the sector for a career – not just directly in seafood processing itself, but within larger organizations working within technical, engineering, new product development, IT, finance, HR, and buying,” Seafox Management Consultants Manager Simon Dwyer said. 

Attendees of the APPG seminar – which met in Westminster, London – discussed challenges facing processing, fishmongering and the supply chain, and how to attract and train new recruits in these industries. Chaired by MPs Alistair Carmichael and Melanie Onn, the meeting heard from representatives from across the seafood sector.

CJ Jackson, principle and chief executive of Billingsgate Seafood School, said that recruitment is a challenge because the work involves unsociable hours much of the time, tough working conditions, and potentially the concept that seafood smells.

“I have seen all the young men (16 to 22) leave the market over the last two to three years for better paid work. Salary may be a challenge at a basic level, but a trained block man is rarely short of a job. Are the Generation Z likely to want this career? Employers will likely need to address working life for this generation,” she said. “To tackle issues around recruitment, I would say this has to be right back at the beginning and in school. As an island – seafood consumption is still challenging in the U.K., and if we can encourage everyone to eat more, and it becomes much more day to day, a career in seafood may be more appealing. Policymakers have huge power to encourage this side in the U.K. Perhaps focus on the entrepreneurial side, and the career ladder for the future.”

Fishmonger Rob Wing, of Wing of St. Mawes, said he would welcome a recognized qualification and or apprenticeship opportunities for young people looking to acquire artisan skills.  

“Seafood production is an integral sector of food production and will become increasingly important, should greater volumes of seafood become available for [the] U.K. to process for both the home and export markets,” he said. 

Earlier this month, Seafish published the findings of a new investigation into what 16- to 18-year-olds thought of careers in the seafood sector. Many of those that took part in the study felt that the industry only offered limited career prospects and perceived it as a low-skilled and unexciting sector. It also found that many people in that age group feared their friends would make fun of them for working with fish. 

“As a collective seafood industry, we need to shine a light on the positive stories and show young people that it’s possible to carve out an exciting and rewarding career,” Seafish CEO Marcus Coleman said in the report. “We need to shout about all the different jobs that are available and the fact that seafood careers can offer young people a chance to travel the world, to become a leader or own a business.”

Therefore, the public body, partly through its “The World is Your Oyster” campaign, is also urging the industry to promote positive stories and show young jobseekers that it is possible to carve out a rewarding career in seafood.  

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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