Aquaculture Magazine

Aquaculture students have good chance of finding jobs in Magic Valley

Instructors at CSI think that adding programs like that to schools in the area would be a good idea.

USA: Class for an aquaculture student can be hours of working outside, in a hatchery. For a lot of students that's a draw to going into it.

At least that was for Justin Ashley, who is in the College of Southern Idaho's aquaculture program.

"I like being outdoors, I like fishing, I really didn't want to be in school at first then I found out we have a fish program down here," he said.

Ashley didn't know much about the field before he started taking classes last fall. His high school, Filer High School, like many others in the Magic Valley didn't have an aquaculture program.

"If my high school had it I would have probably taken every class they had for it," Ashley said.

So if Ashley was still in high school he probably would have been jealous of Murtaugh High School, who received a $10,000 grant last week to start an aquaculture program.

Instructors at CSI think that adding programs like that to schools in the area would be a good idea.

"If we could peak interest in high schools I think that would push people more into this type of program and get them a better hands on feel," said Matt Wilson, the CSI fish hatchery manager and aquaculture instructor. "Getting the awareness out there that this type of industry does exist."

In Idaho it doesn't just exist, it thrives.

Three quarters of the U.S. production of rainbow trout comes from Idaho. Two thirds of that comes from the Magic Valley Area.

Large companies like Clear Springs Trout in Buhl are to thank for that. But there are non-commercial opportunities too. The Department of Fish and Game employs aquaculturists, as does the National Fish Hatchery in Hagerman.

"There are lots of opportunities for both the public and the private sector," Wilson said.

The Department of Environmental Quality says that the aquaculture industry employs about 800 people in Idaho. There are about 115 permitted aquaculture facilities that exist in Idaho, nearly 70% of them operate in the Magic Valley.

The water in the area makes the industry so successful here.

"It is that spring water that is naturally found here in the Magic Valley that makes this such a great area for aquaculture production," Wilson said.

It also makes for a safe bet for the seven students in CSI's aquaculture program. The program has a cap at 12 students who can choose one of two paths. The first is receiving a technical certificate which takes one year and all the classes are at the hatchery. The second is an associates degree of applied science which is one year at the hatchery and one year of classes on campus.

Wilson said they help programs go further with their education at other schools if they want after they finish the program. The students who want to get straight into the workforce have about an 85% job placement rate.

"We have a very high job placement rate coming out of the program," Wilson said.

That bodes well for Ashley, who is seeking the technical certificate. He wants to stay close to home, but said he'd take whatever job he can get. His ideal job? Running his own sturgeon farm.

"If I get the opportunity to have my own fish farm, I'd do that," Ashley said.


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