The Scottish Government has confirmed that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will receive £80,000 to be used in support of an Island Skills and Repopulation Project, which will be delivered across Uist.
The project which will be delivered in partnership by the Convention of the Highlands and Islands (CoHI) Population Working Group, is a response to the 2020 CoHI evidence paper about communities suffering acute population challenges.
This pilot will run from January 2023 to March 2023 and will implement a blueprint infrastructure that will provide a skills solution that meets the bespoke needs of Uist.
The primary aim of the project will be to support people into employment. It will look to address the key challenges within the skills sector and help to address the local recruitment challenges across the islands. The programme will ensure new entrants and career changers explore the opportunities and pathways that are open to them within local industry. It will allow people to gain industry specific qualifications, enabling them to be work ready and progress into their chosen career straight from school, change their career, return from a career break, or return to the Islands.
The pilot scheme will seek to create a sustainable ‘on-island’ employment infrastructure targeting investment to meet skill shortages in Uist. Support will be focused on key local sectors including Aquaculture, Construction, Hospitality and Social Services. The scheme will include a wide range of training including employment pathways, training/retraining packages and innovative, bespoke solutions that are needed to tackle depopulation.
The project will focus on providing support to priority groups including jobseekers, young people, parents, women, Gaelic speakers, minority group and individuals who require upskilling or re-skilling.
Outcomes from this island pilot will inform the Local Employability Partnership action plan, which has inclusive economic growth as the driving factor to tackle inequality and depopulation within our rural, Island Communities.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Cllr Paul Steele, said:
“Over the last decade the Outer Hebrides has lost over ten percent of its population; the greatest decline of any local authority area in Scotland. Uist has the highest level of depopulation of all the Islands with over thirteen percent.”
“Keeping young, working age people on the Islands is our main priority. We need to create a framework that allows them to access greater career opportunities locally after leaving school.”