Rising Stars | Kurk Jones

Year of Young People

2018 is the Year of Young People in Scotland. Our sector is proud to employ people of all ages and backgrounds, and particularly pleased to be able to offer rewarding careers to people starting off in life after school, college and university. Salmon farming is one of the key sectors helping to support the rural economy in the Highlands and Islands and offers good career opportunities for young people to stay in the region. It is as true now, in this Year of Young People, as it has ever been.

SSPO has been speaking to a number of younger employees, or ‘rising stars’ as we like to think of them, to find out their stories.

Kurk Jones, Marine Harvest

What is your job and what does it involve?

Farm manager at our Portnalong salmon farm. I lead a team of six fish technicians that grow each crop of salmon for 18-22 months. Our number one priority is feeding our fish, and other supporting jobs include net changes, fish health checks, and general housekeeping.

What got you into salmon farming?

My mum! Just after my 17th birthday she handed me the newspaper with a job advertisement for Marine Harvest and asked “Do you fancy that”? I didn’t know anything about the job or the business but did know a family friend who has worked for Marine Harvest for many years – John Gillies. So, I gave it a try and started work in August 2011.

What excites you most about the sector?

Even in my short 7 years’ experience, salmon farming has advanced so much, and I’m excited to see where it’s going. The company is very good at providing its employees with much of the in-house training needed for promotion. There’s over 75 unique positions at Marine Harvest, so lots of choice for career paths.

Why do you enjoy what you do?

I really like the challenge of advancement that the company offers, and I enjoy networking and sharing ideas with colleagues and suppliers. And on a nice sunny day, you can’t find a better “office” to work.

What advice would you give to other young people considering a career in the salmon farming sector?

Go for it. If you’re wondering about a career in salmon aquaculture, just give it a try at the entry level. If you enjoy it, you can have so many career paths ahead of you.

How does technology/digital transformation improve your work?

Digital information screens, GPS plotters, weather forecasting, and well boat technology are just a few advancements I can think of that provide us real-time data. A clear benefit that all these technologies provide is improved safety for our staff and our fish.

Was salmon farming an opportunity for you to return to, or stay in your local community?

Skye is my home, and this job is probably the only reason I still get to live here. At school I didn’t know where I was going to go, or what I had to offer, so I’m grateful for the opportunity this job has given me – as a career and a lifestyle. At the age of 19 I was able to buy a house on Skye where my girlfriend and I now live.

How does your company and community work together?

I recently attended the Career Fair Day at Portree High School, and it felt really good knowing that I can provide the same opportunities to local students that I was given. They can find a career near their hometown and they can learn on the job. I also know we are good neighbours and help out when we can. It feels good knowing your company supports many clubs, charities and events in the Highlands and Islands. Even small things can make a positive impact: We have an agreement with the neighbour next to my farm: she puts an internet antenna on her house that sends a signal to the farm, and in exchange she gets free wifi. It’s a win-win.