The trade of the fishers is many things: It is challenging yet fascinating, it can be exhausting yet it is rich of rewards, too. But it is not a trade that can be usually learnt in schools: in fact, most of the transmission of skills and competences in the trade come from older fishers teaching their job to younger apprentices. This generational process often struggles with constraints such as increased ageing of the older fishers’ generation and problems in attracting local youth to the sector.
In the Lokka-Porttipahta reservoir in Finnish Lapland, recruiting youth to the sector is essential to the survival of the area’s fisheries, and to the security of food supply chain. Thanks to EU funding, the Lokka Fisher’s cooperative has set up a project tackling those constrains and successfully implementing generational renewal in the fisheries sector
To reverse the ageing trend, the Cooperative, assessed methods of attracting young adults to the area and its fishing industry. The project identified three objectives:
- ensure the continuity of fishing in the area
- improve the professional skills of both new and existing fishers, and
- develop an innovative fisheries recruitment model for the area.
The result was a ‘master and apprentice’ project in which newly recruited young adults were trained by the area’s ageing senior fishers for a period of two and a half years. This was a flexible programme that provided the apprentices with enough time for other work and study commitments since the project did not offer an initial income.
Master-apprentice projects tend to attract youth from their local areas. Lapland, in contrast, has a low population compared to other parts of Finland, so the new fishers were recruited from other areas of the country and internationally, from other EU Member States. While carrying significant costs, such relocation required potential apprentices to put a lot of trust in the project, which did not guarantee employment nor an income upon completion of the training programme. At the same time, this recruiting process was one of the successful aspects of the process, tackling successfully the issue of numbers of apprentices in the generational renewal.
This project also differed slightly from other master-apprentice programmes in that the apprentices acquired specific skills based on the master fisher they were assigned to. These skills ranged from designing specific fishing gear, through actual fishing activities, to post-harvest processing.
The tangible results of the project are 14 new young adults now working in the area as fully fledged fishers with a full income from the profession. This has doubled the total number of commercial fishers in the area. Furthermore, the fact that two of the 14 new recruits are women contributes to more gender equality. As the project has doubled the population of fishers, several new investments in the port and processing facilities have taken place, and these have improved the working conditions in the sector. Further expected improvements will be based on the needs and new ideas of the young fishers now working in the area.
While the project is fully completed and paid, the Lokka Fishers’ Cooperative members are continuing the project under their own initiative. The driving force behind this commitment is the desire of senior fishers in the area to continue providing training to anyone who is genuinely interested in learning the trade and becoming a full-time fisher.
EU funding, through the Lapland Local Action Group (LAG), meant that the Lokka Cooperative could set up a lasting training programme that is still being implemented today even though the initial project has ended. The rejuvenation of the sector has brought new forces and new ideas to the local trade, while giving to senior fishers an increased purpose and hope that their profession will continue to play an important part in the developing local economy.
The results of the project were so well received in the Lapland FLAG area that other similar projects are now taking place in other parts in the region, including Lake Kemijärvi: To date, this project has three young apprentices currently learning their trade from senior master fishers.
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- 6 spalis 2022
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