The Maine Aquaculture Association has released the first Maine Aquaculture Occupational Standards, which specify the current workforce skills and training needs of Maine’s aquaculture sector. Altogether, four standards have been released, focusing on occupations related to (1) Marine Shellfish and Sea Vegetables; (2) Marine Finfish; (3) Land-Based RAS; and (4) Land-Based Shellfish Hatcheries. A supplementary document, the Maine Shellfish Aquaculture Career Pathways Map, designed to provide an overview of the most common job types, entry points, and career pathway opportunities in Maine’s shellfish aquaculture sector today, has been included in the release as well.
The occupational standards, completed in collaboration with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Educate Maine, and with support from FocusMaine, are intended to: (1) present education and training providers with a clear and comprehensive understanding of the specific technical skills and knowledge that are critical for the most common careers in each sector; (2) standardize workforce training in the state; and (3) establish an industry-led process to align training with workforce needs as the industry, and workforce needs, evolve.
Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association, noted, "Based on a strong collaboration between the farmers and the educational community, these standards will help ensure that Maine aquaculture businesses have the skills and training needed to compete in a global market."
The 2020 Maine Aquaculture Workforce Development Strategy identified occupational standards to inform and standardize aquaculture training as a pillar of its recommendations. These standards, which are built on top of the findings included in the workforce development strategy, are based on extensive one-on-one interviews with aquaculture businesses and educational institutions across Maine. "The development of these first-of-their-kind standards shows once again that Maine's sea farmers are leading the nation in the emergence of a competitive and sustainable domestic aquaculture sector," said Belle.
The Maine Aquaculture Association (est. 1978), which has over a 25-year track record of developing operating standards and best management practices, is a non-profit trade association that advocates for Maine’s aquatic farmers (including shellfish, finfish, and sea vegetable producers) at the state, federal, and international levels. For more information about the association please visit maineaqua.org.
For information about training programs for careers in aquaculture, please contact the following institutions:, Mid-Coast School of Technology, Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology, Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center, Maine Ocean School, Washington County Community College, Southern Maine Community College, Aquaculture Research Institute, Unity College, College of the Atlantic, Maine Maritime Academy, University of Maine, and University of New England. Although none of the currently offered programs fully meet the occupational standards, all of the institutions are working to bring their programs into alignment with the new standards.