Efforts in the Highlands and Islands to attract and retain young people may be starting to have a positive effect, according to a new report.
A survey into the attitudes and aspirations that people age 15-30 have about the region, was carried out this summer for development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
It follows a previous study commissioned by the agency in 2015. The findings show that increasing numbers of young people want to live and work in the Highlands and Islands; with the proportion of committed stayers up to 46%, from 36%.
Almost all areas of the region show an increase in the proportion of young people committed to staying, while fewer school leavers are committed to leaving; down to 42% from 56%.
Over half (54%) of respondents said they anticipate living in the Highlands and Islands in ten years’ time. This was particularly the case among those living in Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross.
More than 3,000 young people took part in the study, sharing their views on living, working and studying in the region.
Almost 70% agreed that people who stay are lucky to be able to work or study locally and most believe that leavers will return to the region when the time is right.
Following HIE’s 2015 study, a broad strategy was implemented to retain and attract young people to the region. Various policy developments in education, employment and infrastructure have taken place. Increased research activity across the University of the Highlands and Islands and other academic institutes active in the region, has helped attract more students.
The Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme has been implemented through eight regional groups; promoting opportunities and helping people become work ready.
The Inverness and Highland City Region Deal is helping to deliver projects such as HIE’s Northern Innovation Hub and Science Skills Academy. These create education and career opportunities for young people in the region. Similar projects are contained within proposals for growth deals in Argyll and Bute, Moray and the islands.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s director of regional development, said: “Young people are vital to the future prosperity of the Highlands and Islands.
“Creating conditions that make the region attractive to them has always been challenging, and one of our key priorities.
“It is therefore very heartening to hear that increasing numbers of young people appear to be feeling more positive about the region as a place to live, study and pursue rewarding careers.
“We would like to thank all those who took part in both this survey and the previous one in 2015.
“Their input has been extremely valuable in shaping efforts to attract and retain young people.
“This latest feedback suggests that these efforts are having an impact, which is very encouraging.”