20th March 2023

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Breathe new life into your business through home grown talent and skilled apprenticeships.

Even in the snow-blanketed North Highlands, spring is in the air. A time of rebirth, renewal, and hope – even in the most turbulent of times, the sight of the first snowdrops along the roadsides and pathways can’t fail to bring a sense of optimism. Amidst the challenges and burdens of the current business environment, it can be difficult to embrace the lightness that spring promises. But my own spirits are continually revived in the work which the Chamber supports through Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) North Highlands and our partners, supporting and inspiring young people on their first steps into the world of work.

With Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023 in full swing and “Caithness Jobs and how to get them” jobs fair on the horizon this weekend, it is fantastic to see local employers committed to employment and training opportunities for young people here in Caithness and North Sutherland. The diverse range of opportunities available locally reflects the varied employment landscape of the region, which is set to further broaden as we adapt to an ever-changing and rapidly evolving future. Ensuring businesses and organisations are equipped with the skills to meet these needs is a challenge faced by all and we must work together to nurture our homegrown talent.

Apprentices can breathe new life into businesses, unlocking the potential to attract talented and motivated young workers, enhancing company reputation, and allowing employers to future-proof their business by developing skilled workforces from the roots up. Employer research carried out by Skills Development Scotland found that 83 per cent of businesses taking on apprentices had improved the company’s productivity, while 79 per cent reported better staff morale. But supporting an apprenticeship isn’t just a sound business decision, it represents a sustained investment in the future of the North Highlands, our collective future, and the resilience of our economy and communities.

By allowing individuals to advance their employment, earning, and educational prospects, whilst living within their local area, apprenticeship opportunities can help to establish a more inclusive workforce and fairer economy. But these opportunities are not exclusive to large companies, employers of all sizes can support young people with training and apprenticeship opportunities. We are blessed locally to have some fantastic businesses and organisations going above and beyond to support initiatives that invest in the growth and development of our future workforce.

I appreciate that for many businesses, employing an apprentice can be cost-prohibitive and some may feel overwhelmed by how to start, but Caithness Chamber of Commerce can offer support, guidance, and advice throughout the process. Signposting businesses to opportunities for funding support and training costs is just one of the ways we can help. The Caithness Business Fund offers grants of up to £5,000 to help businesses in the region that are looking to employ an apprentice. Since 2013 the fund has supported ten apprentice opportunities across a variety of sectors including farming, hospitality, renewables, trades and business administration. That’s great news for both North Highland businesses and communities at a time where shrinking and ageing populations are a threat.

If an apprenticeship isn’t on the cards, employers interested in supporting young people with employability skills can engage directly with DYW North Highlands. From jobs fairs to mock interviews, work experience, and more there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

As we celebrate Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023 for another year, I look forward to seeing our own local apprentices flourish and thrive, each one helping to shape the future of our North Highland region.


Debbie Murray, Principal UHI North Highland, View from the Board: Unlocking Potential.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week shines a light and celebrates the vital role apprenticeships play in supporting people, employers and the economy across a wide range of industries.

Throughout the week, we will be joining employers, colleges, businesses and students showcasing apprenticeship stories under the Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023 theme ‘Unlocking Potential’.

By unlocking potential and providing the skills employers want, apprenticeships support sustained employment, upskilling and a productive economy.  With Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships available alongside hundreds of industry frameworks, there are currently 43,000 apprentices across Scotland employed by 12,000 businesses.

Within the North Highland area, there are over 100 apprentices, working for a range of business from hair to gamekeeping. That is over a 100 people who have chosen to stay and work in their local area whilst gaining valuable skills and training in the workplace.

Apprenticeships open opportunities for individuals from a range of backgrounds and abilities to gain and develop skills that will support them throughout their life and in work. For every apprenticeship taken up in the North Highlands, we can celebrate another person who has chosen to stay in the region to progress their education and employment.  At a time when we need to encourage people to stay or migrate to the highlands, an apprenticeship really is a great way to grow and develop whilst working locally.

Employers can realise their potential with the support of apprenticeships, by developing a workforce that supports the skills they need for now and the future. Apprenticeships are providing critical skills needed to support economic priorities and renewables, including Net Zero ambitions, to help our region to become a stronger, fairer, greener, and wealthier economy.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a time to show the great things that happen when people and businesses are supported to reach their potential through apprenticeships.

For many small businesses employing an apprentice can seem a large investment but through the Caithness Business Fund, local employers can apply for funding which can be used to support the employment costs of an apprentice. Additionally, Skills Development Scotland provide funding to support the associated training costs. Work based learning is a real alternative to university, allowing people to gain qualifications and earn a wage whilst staying in their local area.

There are some really exciting apprenticeship opportunities currently being advertised with small and large companies. This year, we have seen a local renewable and timber processing company taking on their first apprentice based in Sutherland and larger companies are recruiting locally across this week.

UHI North Highland will merge with UHI Outer Hebrides and UHI West Highland in August 2023 to form UHI North, West and Hebrides, pending Scottish Government approval. Together, we have ambitions to grow our work-based learning and apprenticeship numbers and continue to have a key role to play in supporting the UHI partnership and its growing apprenticeship offering across the region.

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