Western Isles apprentices to be helped to access low-cost housing

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) will help apprentices in the Western Isles access low-cost housing with the creation of a new charter.

Western Isles apprentices to be helped to access low-cost housing

Malcolm Burr, CnES chief executive, Paul Wheelhouse, minister for energy, connectivity and the Islands and Frank Mitchell, SDS chair 

The charter is a first of its kind for Scotland, outlining how the two organisations will work together to increase opportunities across the Islands and boost the local economy.

The new approach will see organisations deliver sector-leading services to young people, including careers support, employability programmes and apprenticeships in a bid to tackle depopulation across Eilean Siar.

School leavers will be incentivised not to leave through the combined offer of an apprenticeship and housing, enabling them to earn, learn and live in the Islands.

The charter was signed today at the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness by SDS chair Frank Mitchell, CnES chief executive Malcolm Burr and minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse.

Frank Mitchell said: “This agreement will allow organisations across the Western Isles to deliver sector-leading services to young people, including careers, employability programmes and apprenticeships.

“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.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the local authority on this exciting new approach.”

Malcolm Burr said: “This charter will deliver a unified approach and offer to young people throughout the Western Isles on behalf of the local authority, Scottish Government and SDS, and in full collaboration with local providers. As part of the Agreement, the Comhairle has committed to providing low-cost housing for apprentices as a means to encourage young people to stay in the Islands.

“The Comhairle is committed to reversing depopulation and this Agreement, through 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.”

Paul Wheelhouse added: “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.”

By encouraging more people to stay in Eilean Siar for work, the charter will support local businesses and the wider economy.

The charter will also introduce a new ‘joined-up’ approach to local services, including the development of a new Hub facility in Stornoway which will provide a one-stop-shop for local careers and employability services.

Frank Mitchell said: “Work is already underway to produce similar agreements with other Island local authorities. This new approach will create real opportunities for the people of Eilean Siar, and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on this rich and diverse part of Scotland.”

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