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VOCATIONAL AQUALABS-VOCATIONAL GENERIC SKILLS for RESEARCHERS

Vocational Aqualabs will make a useful and innovative contribution to the link between aquaculture research and the industry. Vocational Aqualabs will identify the key generic skills which are required by researchers and in turn design flexible training modules based on industry\'s needs which can be delivered using a variety of learning pathways (formal and informal). Vocational Aqualabs will increase the competence of Turkish researchers by providing continual professional development training in generic skills which in turn will be better positioned to support the significant aquaculture sector in Turkey.

The overall aim of Vocational Aqualabs is to improve VET systems in the European Aquaculture sector to ensure researchers receive continual professional development training in generic skills which will meet the needs highlighted in a) result in increasing the quality, attractiveness and security of research career pathways b) increase the relevancy of researchers and their research to the sector c) improve knowledge transfer to industry for exploitation contributing to a sustainable sector in Europe.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES

  • To carry out a needs analysis of the sector in order to identify and prioritise generic skill training needs for researchers
  • Define the skill gaps identified using the WAVE project methodology (competences + learning outcomes)
  • Improve existing training material or develop new material where required
  • Design skill delivery using a modular approach allowing adoptability within existing systems resulting in a multiplier effect
  • Pilot skill delivery, assess impact and benchmark pilot training against existing national/international credit procedures

Vocational Aqualabs uses outputs and results from a past successful LDV Project; WAVE (Working in Aquaculture Validation of Experience) which aimed to improve the transparency and recognition of competences, by creating a Master List of Competences. This was carried out by surveying more than 90 fish farms in 10 countries, a bottom-up approach which led to its validation by the European Producers\' Association FEAP. Describing the Master List of competences (some of which are generic skills) in terms of Learning Outcomes which are the base of the current accreditation measures in the newly launched European Qualification Framework (EQF) is part of the current LDV project VALLA. These developments continue to be innovative as so few countries have even set up their National Qualifications Frameworks, in which Learning Outcomes play a decisive descriptive role. The results will give valuable support to the partner countries involved. The added value consists in spreading much-needed skills in a rapidly changing innovative field, aquaculture, which is still growing relative to the capture fisheries sector at a rate of 8.8% annually, dominating all other animal food-producing sectors (The State of World Fisheries & Aquaculture, FAO, 2006). Its competitiveness can only continue through an adequate supply of sufficiently up-skilled personnel, including research personnel, and including generic skills as recommended by J.Figel (Brussels, June 2006).

The European aquaculture sector is a fast-growing and innovative industry, its success relying on a joint practical and theoretical knowledge base. Its personnel, including research personnel, regularly require specialised training and skill updating if they are to respond to the very rapid changes taking place at both the theoretical and practical levels. These changes must result in course/module adaptations and updates of subject-specific materials, leading to new perceptions of curriculum needs (otherwise the courses will suffer the fate of the saber-tooth curriculum (J.A.Peddiwell, McGraw-Hill, 1939) the educational content of which was as extinct as its subject). The TUNING initiative, now being followed world-wide, showed that academics, employers and students all agreed as to the importance of generic skills in a well-balanced curriculum. The Vocational Aqualabs project will identify new generic skills requirements and will develop innovative short modules to meet these needs. It will thus contribute towards the acquisition of cross-cutting skills, as itemised by Jan Figel, EU Education Commissioner in June 2006 ("management, communication, networking, entrepreneurship and teamwork"). Such short courses can be given credits within the emerging EQF and thus facilitate transfer of technology in the highly competitive global aquaculture industry.

The project will addresses "Priority 4: Develop Vocational Skills considering the labour market needs" by focusing on researchers at any stage in their career pathways and providing training modules and various delivery options to suit the needs of different researchers ensuring there are options for up-skilling. The "Sufficient and well-developed human resources in R&D are the cornerstone of advancement in scientific knowledge, technological progress, enhancing the quality of life, ensuring the welfare of European citizens and contributing to Europe\'s competitiveness" (Code of Conduct for recruitment of European Researchers EUR 21620). As such researchers must remain in touch with technical developments in order to provide solutions to industry. Such up-skilling must be subject-specific but equally important (TUNING initiative) are the generic skills. Yet, essential as researchers are in today\'s world, they are not usually part of course provision.

Such up-skilling of researchers has a multiplication effect in the fact that they supply industry with new knowledge for sustainable growth of the sector. European Aquaculture employs ~80,000 workers and in turn supplies European consumers with safe and healthy end products.

The project concorcium is composed of 6 partners including AquaTT (Ireland), University of Aberdeen (UK), Stirling University (UK), Aquark (Greece) and Innovamar (Spain). The Project contractor is Ankara University. Turkey (Bologna signatory in 2001) and steadily implementing all aspects of the EU educational reforms in more than 100 universities, is an important part of the partnership, able to transmit all the latest information and knowhow, not only in respect of subject-specific competences, but also the much-needed generic skills. The UK and Irish partners have excellent expertise in the relevant areas which will be spread, via the Greek, Turkish and Spanish partners, on a much wider geographic scale.