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Lecturer story: Diving into the diverse world of aquaculture with Glenn


For lecturer Glenn Varley, a career in aquaculture was bound to happen. A long time nature lover, he grew up with a "native interest in biology". This was paired with a fascination for marine life.

"I used to spend all my spare time walking around in the bush or going to the rivers or the lake to fish," he says.

This lifelong passion led Glenn to pursue an undergraduate Degree in Biology and Animal Physiology at the University of New South Wales. Upon completing his degree, he moved up to the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales to work on a fish farm. His fish farming work took him to several destinations around Australia. He was eventually offered a lecturing position at Central Regional TAFE 15 years ago.

"I took the lecturing role on because it gave me the opportunity to transfer my knowledge and to give other people opportunities within the industry," he shares.

Knowing what to expect from a qualification in aquaculture

Now a lecturer for SFI20119 Certificate II in Aquaculture, SFI30119 Certificate III in Aquaculture and the SFI50119 Diploma of Aquaculture, Glenn says that there are plenty of learning opportunities for international students.

At the Certificate II level, students start by learning the basics of "…Fish husbandry. How to handle and look after fish to grow them and feed them and make sure that their environment is good to grow in. We focus a lot on water quality and water chemistry. It's important to understand how to maintain the water quality to a set of standards so the fish stay alive and grow."

As students progress to more advanced levels of the course, he notes, they deepen their understanding. "You'll learn how to design practical aquaculture systems and how to run them. Students learn how to manage the entire operation of aquaculture enterprises."

Special opportunities in Western Australia

When it comes to studying aquaculture, Western Australia is one of the best spots to do it, shares Glenn.

"Western Australia has a diversity of geography and climate. You could be in the southern part of Western Australia where it's quite cool and there are production systems for things like oysters, mussels and abalone. In the complete opposite to that, you could be up in the Kimberley area farming barramundi in sea cages," he explains. "The richness of the opportunities in WA are based on the variety."

How Central Regional TAFE stands out

According to Glenn, Central Regional TAFE is unique. It has some of the most modern facilities and provides students with a great education.

"In Geraldton we have a dedicated marine centre. It's called the Batavia Coast Maritime Institute. It was purpose built for fish holding systems. We have an ocean intake line, so we have direct access to oceanic water," he says. "There's no limitation to how many different types and sizes of fish that we could potentially grow here."

Glenn at aquaculture facility

In addition, students benefit from practical, hands-on training - a competitive advantage when entering the job market.

"We do a lot of fieldwork here. We'll bring students to the local fish farms, to local waterways. We have a 20-metre training vessel which regularly visits the Abrolhos islands and small runabouts for students to access small boat training."

Students in Geraldton will also have plenty of opportunities to explore marine life in their spare time, adds Glenn. He says that surfing, diving and swimming are all popular activities. It's a dream destination for ocean loving students.

Central Regional TAFE is also home to a diverse student body, with a number of international students. Glenn shares that the cultural diversity offered is one of his classroom's biggest assets. This is because it creates new learning opportunities.

"International students come from different countries with different social and cultural systems and the aquatic environments have different ecosystems. So, we all benefit from that," he explains. "I can ask them what happens in their country in relation to this type of fish or this type of system. So, that's a great learning advantage for me and for all the local students as well."

Taking passion from the classroom to the career market

When asked about his advice for students looking for a career in aquaculture, Glenn's advice is simple. "Use your experience to sell yourself to employers."

"Use the experience that you gain. Use the things that you learn to broaden your background and to demonstrate that you have a broad background," he encourages.

In the aquaculture industry, Glenn continues, employers see benefits in employees who have worked in different environments and on different projects. He explains that a well rounded background demonstrates to employers that you are able to adapt to different systems, an important skill set in a diverse industry like aquaculture. 

To develop strong links with industry to succeed in the future employment market, choose TAFE International Western Australia (TIWA) for globally recognised courses delivered by dedicated lecturers with industry experience and connections. Check out the wide range of courses that TIWA has to offer and detailed information on the application process. You can apply to study with TIWA by completing an online application.

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