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Caithness Chamber of Commerce launches “Developing the Young Workforce” initiative

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham has today (23rd September) announced a North Highland Developing the Young Workforce regional group to improve links between education and work and increase opportunities for young people in the far north of the country.

Civic Leader, Cllr Gail Ross officially launched the new initiative on behalf of Caithness Chamber of Commerce at the Pentland Hotel in Thurso. 

Led by local employers and shaped by regional needs, this initiative will provide a new way of examining and resolving the issues of skills gaps and youth unemployment in Caithness and Sutherland.

The initiative will establish a regional industry-led group which will provide leadership and a single point of contact in facilitating engagement between employers and education, with the aim of ensuring that our young workforce is developing the skills necessary to meet upcoming industry needs.

As lead partner in the local development of the initiative, Caithness Chamber of Commerce worked throughout the first half of the year to engage with employers, education providers and local stakeholders to develop a bid for submission to the Scottish Government to provide an initial three years’ funding. 

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham said:  “I am very pleased that the Developing the Young Workforce in the North Highland regional group is up and running. While there is a considerable amount of good work happening in the area, I recognise that much more can be done to support young women and men towards sustainable and rewarding jobs.

“Recent statistics demonstrate a clear and sustained improvement in the youth labour market with youth employment reaching its highest May to July level since 2005 and youth unemployment falling to its lowest level and rate since 2008.

“We want to maintain progress and employers will play a key role in the delivery of the aims of Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy – a 40 per cent reduction in youth unemployment by 2021. We want an improved relationship between schools and employers that will allow all of our young people to progress, whatever their background or gender.“

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is also providing funding for the initiative and has committed £180k over 3 years.  David Vineall, Human Resources Director for the NDA said, “I wish the Caithness Chamber every success in delivering this initiative. It will help bring employers and potential employees together at an early stage for the benefits of both. There are good opportunities going to be available in Dounreay and its supply chain companies for a number of years.  I hope this initiative will focus attention on decommissioning as a good career choice as well as highlighting opportunities across Caithness and Sutherland.”

The initial funding for the initiative will run for three years, commencing from September 2015, and will focus on working with employers and education providers to ensure that school and college leavers are better prepared for the world of work, that education focuses on employment and progression in learning, that Modern Apprenticeships are focused on industry needs, and that more employers are engaging with education and recruiting young people.

Following this initial three-year period, the North Highland Developing the Young Workforce initiative will continue on as an employer-led group funded through other sources, working to identify new skills needs and providing employment opportunities for local young people.

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber is excited to once again be at the forefront of an innovative initiative which will help to secure the economic future of Caithness and Sutherland.

“Employers in every sector face skills gaps in their industry, whether now or in the future, and youth unemployment has been shown to have long-term impacts for individuals, society and the economy. Addressing these issues will require a real commitment from both employers and education providers to work together to help identify skills needs in the area and to develop the path to employment for our young people.”

The initiative features on the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership’s Programme, and Eann Sinclair, CNSRP Programme Manager welcomed the news: “The economic health of this area in the future will depend upon a thriving model of partnership between businesses, education establishments and individuals. It is exciting to see the level of private and public sector commitment that has taken this initiative to its launch stage, and I hope that it will give real confidence to young people that Caithness & Sutherland offers choices for securing employment.”

Claire Riddell, Assistant Manager at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, said: “We were delighted to be invited to contribute to the new Developing the Young Workforce initiative led by the Caithness Chamber of Commerce.  The significant ground work done by the Caithness Chamber of Commerce with the Scottish Government to help secure a local group provides us all with the opportunity to give back to the local area.  This positive approach will allow young people to have a choice, whether that be to stay in the area and develop their skills or to move away to further their knowledge.

“Royal Dornoch is very keen on promoting young people whether that is in sport or in the workplace which helped us attain our IIYP (Investor in Young People) award.  It is very encouraging to see the active involvement of other Caithness and Sutherland businesses, education providers and government bodies pulling together to help secure a prosperous future for the young people and subsequently helping the area thrive with a unified approach.  We have no doubt that pulling resources and like-minded people together will result in positive outcomes for all.”

Councillor Deirdre Mackay, East Sutherland and Edderton Ward, said: “Originally planned as a Highland wide initiative I am delighted that we have been successful in persuading Scottish Government that a Caithness and Sutherland model would be more locally responsive to the business needs of the north. Traditionally the links between school and higher education have been strong but this has not been the case in the transition between school and the local workplace.

“We want the local economy to thrive and we also want our youngsters to have the opportunities to stay in the north if this is what they wish. Greater understanding of the current and future needs of local business should therefore influence the subjects taught in our schools which in turn will equip our young people with the skills and knowledge required to support local industry. This initiative is a focussed response to addressing these issues and I very much look forward to supporting its work. “

A launch event for this initiative will also be held in Sutherland at the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora on 24th November with keynote speaker the Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment, Annabel Ewing.


Photo: Cllr. Gail Ross addresses the audience during the DtYWF launch.