Skills upgrading

Going far beyond the bare bones of fish farming

Temasek Poly's one-day course on fish nutrition equips employee with ability to make better decisions at work

Gillian Cheah, 20, a student in Diploma in Veterinary Technology, feeds Tilapias at the Temasek Polytechnic Aquaculture facility. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Before Bangladeshi national Shariful Islam took up a day course on fish nutrition at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) two years ago, he could not make better decisions at work.

"Whenever a fish dies or falls sick, my job was to tell the supervisor and he will tell me what to do," said the 31-year-old exporter with local fish farm Apollo Aquaculture.

He started out with no experience in fish farming when he came to Singapore eight years ago, after his family could no longer afford his university education.

But he now knows how to do his job better after completing the course with four colleagues.

"I know how to cut open the fish when they die to see what they died from, bacteria or parasite," he said.

He also began prescribing better feed - a combination of pellets and live fish - instead of just the latter, to the fish. "They grow better," he said. "I also learnt how much I should feed the fish to get the most meat out of them."

He showed so much improvement at his job that his boss, Mr Eric Ng, decided to send four other employees to do a Diploma in Applied Science (Aquaculture) at TP. They graduated last year.

The 42-year-old chief executive said: "We are expanding, and are starting to rear the fish when they are still in their fry or larva stages... It's very delicate work."

The one-day course at TP, which teaches students about the dietary requirement of fishes, costs $214.

SkillsFuture Credit can be used for this course; five baskets of modules make up a diploma programme, covering subjects such as fish anatomy, aquatic ecosystems and fish diseases.

To get a certificate at the end of each modular course, students have to attend three classes a week for six months. For each course, a student pays between $189.54 and $751.14, depending on the level of government subsidies he qualifies for. These are given to citizens and older workers, among others.

The one-day course is for anyone, regardless of industry experience, said Dr Diana Chan, course manager at TP's School of Applied Sciences. She said: "Aquariums are a growing pastime among Singaporeans... They want to know more about proper nutrition, feeding practices and types of feed."

The labour crunch is tight enough for Mr Ng to consider hiring anyone who has completed the one-day course. He said: "It's a very niche field, and we need people who have the knowledge and skills."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline Going far beyond the bare bones of fish farming. Subscribe