A new scheme aimed at encouraging young people to stay in the islands will see apprentices in the Western Isles amongst the first in Scotland to be ‘supported in the process of accessing low-cost housing’.
The move comes as part of a new Charter Agreement between the Comhairle and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) which will also see the development in Stornoway of a new ‘one-stop shop’ hub facility for local careers and employability services, and a new ‘digital hub’ to ‘widen access to support and information’.
In a joint stament, the partner agencies said that the Charter outlined “a joint commitment to developing, delivering and monitoring services to ensure the needs of the people in the Western Isles are met in terms of education, employment and skills for the benefit of the Islands’ economy”.
And a statement from the Comhairle said that through the Islands Deal the autority was seeking investment in housing: “that will enable young people on the islands to access affordable and quality housing options”, and that central to this will be “increased flexibility and innovation around design, tenure, ownership and financing models”.
The new Charter Agreement was signed at a meeting of the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness, and the Comhairle’s Chief Executive, Malcom Burr said that “the combined offer of an apprenticeship and housing” will enable young people: “to earn, learn and live in the islands, providing them with further opportunity to stay in their own communities.”
SDS Chair, Frank Mitchell, said that the agreement would allow organisations across the Western Isles to deliver “sector-leading services to young people, including careers, employability programmes and apprenticeships”, and added:
“The main premise of the Charter is to sustain population in the Western Isles, to support local employers and to ensure that local people have the skills and support they need to thrive in employment.”
The Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said:
“The provision of good, low-cost housing, the accessibility of education and skills pathways, and the availability of good job prospects are major factors for young people when choosing whether to stay on our islands or seek out opportunities elsewhere.
“Since the introduction of the Islands Act last year, the Scottish Government has been ramping up our efforts to engage with island communities to help us better understand the key issues, which helps us to make real inroads to ensuring a vibrant, sustainable and productive rural economy.
“So it’s great to be involved in such a collaborative and innovative project with the same aims.”