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Jennifer Murphy-O’Connor came to the Shetland Islands to pursue her lifelong ambition of a career in aquaculture.

The apprentice has only ever wanted to work in one environment.

Jennifer explained: “It has been an interest of mine since I was little. As I got older the interest grew and I worked for six months in an aquarium when I was 18. That was when I was absolutely certain a career in aquaculture was what I wanted.”

Jennifer, 27, of Gremista, joined Grieg Seafood and her Modern Apprenticeship in aquaculture gave her the chance to build on her existing skills and knowledge and progress in her career.

During her training she worked with sea cages, learned how boats operate, how fish respond to sea behaviour, water quality testing, sea predator management and general fish husbandry.

 

“I love being outdoors and working in that environment. I feel the apprenticeship means I have been trained well, from the basics to the more technical aspects of the job.”

Jennifer Murphy-O’Connor

Leaving her Madrid-based family to pursue her career was difficult. She explained: “My family knew I wanted to work with marine animals, so they knew I had to move to find the type of work I wanted to do."

Adjusting to the Shetlands elements, she also found herself as the only woman in a male-dominated working environment.

Jennifer said: “There was nothing wrong with it but I had to get used to not having any other females around. The Shetland weather can be pretty wild as well.”

She has some sound advice for anyone else thinking of this kind of career and said: “Find what you are interested in and always do your best. An apprenticeship is often the first step to your future.”

“Jennifer joined the company with no experience of fish farming but she has developed all the practical skills she needs.”

Grant Cumming, Grieg Seafood’s production manager

Kenny Gifford, Jennifer’s assessor at the North Atlantic Fisheries Centre, said: “The sea site work in the salmon farming industry takes place in an extremely harsh environment, so it was a huge challenge for Jennifer having to deal with that.

“She has handled herself with considerable ability both dealing with the hardship of onsite work and working her way through the Modern Apprenticeship to Level 3."

As for her own future, Jennifer said: “I’m fortunate to be working in the environment I love. I hope to enjoy every single day and one day work my way up to become a manager.”

Here’s our step-by-step guide to taking on a Modern Apprentice.

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