Busy Year at NAFC

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NAFC Marine Centre by Broth Stewart.

The NAFC Marine Centre UHI will close its doors at the end of next week (Friday 22nd December) at the end of one of its busiest ever years, during which some 1,300 students enrolled on courses.

NAFC delivered 137 individual training courses during 2017 in 74 subjects across aquaculture, fishing, marine and shore-based engineering and nautical studies. Courses ranged from one-day safety and other professional development courses to modern apprenticeships, fishing ticket courses, and the Centre’s three-year merchant navy officer cadet programme.

With an estimated 1,300 or more Shetlanders directly employed in maritime industries (which account for at least 40% of the output from Shetland’s economy) it is little surprise that demand for maritime training in the islands remains strong.

New Courses

The year saw the introduction of several new courses and training programmes in response to industry demand. These included a new Technical Apprenticeship in Aquaculture Management and Modern Apprenticeships for trainee merchant navy deck and engine-room ratings, as well as several new short courses.

The Technical Apprenticeship in Aquaculture Management (at SVQ Level 4) is the first of its kind in the UK and was developed by NAFC to meet demand from Scottish fish farming companies. The apprenticeship has been designed to enable experienced aquaculture staff to gain a qualification in senior management while working in the industry. It complements NAFC’s existing Modern Apprenticeships for new and experienced aquaculture staff (at SVQ Levels 2 and 3), which together provide a career development path for aquaculture workers from first-entry to senior management positions.

Fourteen students have enrolled on the new Technical Apprenticeship since its launch in June – half of them from other areas of Scotland – and there are 50 aquaculture staff from throughout Scotland enrolled on the Modern Apprenticeships at Levels 2 or 3. More than 150 have already completed one of these programmes.

The Modern Apprenticeships for ratings provide training for those wishing to work at sea as deck or engine-room ratings, and lead to qualification as an Able Seaman (AB), as well as academic qualifications. The programme was launched with an initial intake of six students employed by NorthLink Ferries.

A further 7 young fishermen also enrolled on the Centre’s Modern Apprenticeship in sea fishing during 2017.

Nautical & Engineering

The Centre’s Officer Cadet Programme, which trains deck and engineer officers for the merchant navy continued to be popular with 26 new cadets enrolling on the three-year training programme in September, in addition to those continuing their training from previous years. While many of this year’s intake of cadets are from Shetland some have come from as far afield as Cornwall.

NAFC also ran its first Higher National Diploma Nautical Science course for many years during 2017. Twelve local students enrolled on the course which is required by merchant navy deck officers who wish to obtain their Chief Mate’s ticket.

The much anticipated 5-day MCA Approved Diesel Engine Course was also introduced at NAFC in 2017, aimed at those working on workboats and other small commercial craft. More than 20 students have completed the course so far and feedback has been very positive.

Training for shore-based engineers also continued to be popular with 14 students enrolling on the National Certificate or Modern Apprenticeship programmes in Engineering during the year.

Short Courses

New short courses covering Capstan Safety Awareness, Pressure Washing Safety Awareness, and Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) Water Quality Awareness were developed and launched during the year to meet specific aquaculture industry training needs. Online versions of the Centre’s Fish Welfare and Fish Farm Containment courses were also introduced, allowing students to complete their training in these subjects whenever and wherever it suits them. The Centre intends to further increase the range of courses available for online study in 2018.

There was also continued strong demand for NAFC’s existing portfolio of short courses during 2017. Mandatory safety training courses, such as Sea Survival, Fire Fighting and First Aid, required by anyone working at sea, are in greater demand than ever, with some attracting more than 100 enrolments during the year. The Centre is working with the Shetland Islands Council and Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd to expand the range of fire-fighting and other safety training available in Shetland and plans to introduce new courses in 2018.

Schools Partnerships

The extremely successful partnership between NAFC and Shetland’s schools continued during 2017, with more than 60 pupils attending the Centre on a weekly or fortnightly basis to gain work-related experience and qualifications. This included the Skills for Work programmes in Engineering or Maritime Studies for S3 and S4 pupils, and the Foundation Apprenticeship programme in Engineering for S5 and S6 pupils. More than 90 S2 pupils attended taster sessions in November with a view to joining one of Skills for Work programmes in 2018.


The quality of the NAFC’s training was endorsed by very positive feedback from students throughout the year, and by excellent reports from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) following their audits of the Centre during 2017.

NAFC’s contribution to maritime safety training was recognised in May when the Centre was jointly awarded the 'Contribution to Safety' Award at the annual Fishing News Awards. The prize was collected on the Centre’s behalf by Industry Liaison Officer Caroline Hepburn and Fishing Course Lecturer Leslie Tait. Leslie retired from NAFC the following month after 15 years as a highly-respected lecturer in navigation and seamanship, following a long career as a commercial fishermen.

New Year

The NAFC Marine Centre will re-open to students on the 8th of January, with at least 36 students expected to enrol that day, and 2018 is expected to be another busy year.


A full listing of the courses offered by the NAFC Marine Centre is available at: www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/courses .

For further information please contact: Stuart Fitzsimmons (01595 772103, stuart.fitzsimmons@uhi.ac.uk )