31 August 2017

Education in Aquaculture Can Improve the Seafood Industry Globally

Written by Pamela Ernstberger, Posted in Preview, Fish Net Blog

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Please tell us about your professional work in vocational training.

I completed my formal education in Scotland obtaining a Masters in Aquaculture Business Management from the Scottish Agricultural College. After moving to the US, I did a training workshop in Recirculation Aquaculture Systems a program organized through Auburn University to teach at the vocational level and at the same time completed my teaching certification for life sciences (9-12). I did my teacher training at the Sound School, a vocational aquaculture school also in CT and between my training and teaching position as Aquaculture Biology instructor that I got immersed in vocational education and training using the resources and facilities at the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Science and Technology Educational Center (BRASTEC), applying my skills and knowledge in my instruction. I soon obtained my certification in Vocational Aquaculture. I’ve instructed students in the use and management of RAS as well as developed an after school program in aquatic ecosystems, which focused on the different culture systems and techniques used worldwide. I worked for over 7 years in the CT vocational CTE. I relocated back to the UK in 2015 taking up as position as lecturer in fisheries management and aquaculture at an agricultural vocational college, Shuttleworth College. This job was very practical and focused more on fresh water fisheries and management. I worked with students from 16 years old to adult learners out in the field, facilitating learning in fisheries management that included stocking, fish breeding and also management of RAS in the fish lab as well as policy and regulation in UK and EU. I keep up with training for my own professional development and so I can also supervise and assess students in the field.

How do you introduce aquaculture to 16 to 18 year old students and engage them effectively without leaving the classroom?

Here in the UK there is a strong interest in school to college links and the development of programmes with a more vocational emphasis that can offer some learners a more motivating pathway to the world of work that the conventional academic curriculum. In the US there are many good examples of vocational programs, but not many pathways that lead them to the industry after students reach 18 and beyond.

Students enjoy using technology and I wanted to harness that passion for technology to enhance their learning experience. I think listening to students is important in meeting their needs and interests. I started looking into blended learning methodology and applied new strategies in my normal classroom and ‘flipped’ my classroom. This gave me more flexibility and design a program that was more student centered-gearing towards their interests, plus including a lot of real-time information and resources that they could better relate to and gage their interest. The classroom became a setting for students to share their own experiences and prior knowledge in subjects that they were currently learning. They were the ones bringing new ideas and material into the class to share and make the subjects more realistic and engaging, through videos, presentations or posters that they would create and design, and using technology and their own gadgets encouraged them to present high quality work which the class actively participated in. It was more dynamic. Providing opportunities outside the classroom, through field experience and study trips with my extended industry network, optimized that learning experience.

How do you see Education Online Platforms being best utilized for Vocational training in seafood industries?

I think the blended structure works well for a vocational course or training program; learners have access to the content, which guides them into applying the concepts in a practical setting. Having the content online allows the learners to review the resources, collaborate with peers and instructors as well as professionals in the field and allows them to better manage their learning pace for understanding. It’s important to have an opportunity to practice what you learn, especially in this sector and to see the progression of understanding through application.

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How and why and can vocational education in Aquaculture improve the seafood industry globally?

I think vocational education in aquaculture can improve and support the rapid growth in seafood industry by having a focused community network; I call it a community of practice, in which there are many players, or stakeholders that have an interest in this sector and need to support the learners. For this industry to be successful, you need a community represented by professionals in the field, workers on the factory floor, students and learners, government officials, investors, etc. to work together on common goals, providing a sustainable product through a best practice approach, that will meet the consumer demand. Creating an awareness of how the seafood reaches the market floor is very crucial for determining how the customer will be influenced and we want customers to make the best informed choices when it comes to seafood. I think vocational training at every level in the seafood industry is important.

How do you envision using e-learning programs as a potential tool for disseminating knowledge about aquaculture?

Aquaculture is a multidisciplinary field and through e-learning programs it is possible to teach about the different aspects of the industry as well as the opportunities it offers on a global scale. There is still very little known about aquaculture amongst ordinary people, and what they know of it, is usually negative. So through e-learning, you can reach a wider audience, but this needs to be done in a more effective way. To allow for discussion, I think creating public awareness is crucial. Having a program where members of the public can ask direct questions to people working in this sector is important to get more accurate information and creates more transparency that will transform the industry in a more positive light.

What specific types of certification programs do you think might be welcomed by both the seafood industry and the general public?

For the seafood industry I think there can be a very broad spectrum of certification programs. You already have HACCP training that’s delivered online. There are also many other Health and Safety Standards that need to be kept current, as well as Animal Welfare, Risk Assessments; customer relations, developing skills (soft and hard skills), environmental awareness, etc.

I think for the general public, having a certification program that introduces them to aquaculture and its practices locally as well as global; options for learning the basics of fin fish, shellfish and algae biology (identification); what current on the ‘seafood’ menu…there’s so much I can think of which I think many people would find interesting and also satisfying if at the end of the day they get a certificate that shows their accomplishment!

About the Author

Pamela Ernstberger

Pamela Ernstberger

I'm an educator and instructional designer, blended learning, for vocational aquaculture. My focus is on youth engagement-to widen access to more regions and schools we need to further develop the resources and delivery system, exploiting all that technology can provide, providing more effective youth engagement strategies. These need to be developed and implemented in seafood producing countries with the support of key aquaculture and education stakeholders so that programmes can be developed and subsequently maintained to better meet the demands of this fast growing industry.

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