Caithness Chamber leads the way in skills development

31st May 2011 from Caithness Chamber of Commerce

A £2.3 million skills development programme, ‘Make the Right Connections’ aimed at helping local people benefit from new job opportunities, was launched at Mackays Hotel in Wick today.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP John Thurso launched the programme on behalf of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, which is leading this transformational initiative.  “Make the Right Connections” aims to help local companies and their staff grasp new opportunities expected to come to the region, replacing work lost in the run-down of the Dounreay nuclear site.

New jobs are expected in the north of Scotland from developments such as marine energy in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, offshore wind in the North Sea and business service support made possible by new superfast broadband connections.

‘Make the Right Connections’ programme will help employees of businesses that currently support Dounreay decommissioning to develop their skills towards new opportunities as the site moves towards closure. Over £800,000 of funding for the programme has come from the NDA and a further £300,000 from DSRL. Other sources include £1.15m from the European Structural Fund and £40,000 from Skills Development Scotland.

Speaking at the launch Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of the Caithness Chamber said, “This is just a start.  Re-skilling is a gradual process. ‘Make the Right Connections’ will point people towards realistic job opportunities.  It will assist local companies and individuals to diversify by helping them get the right skills in place at the right time.” 

The Chamber will carry out an audit of current skills and business capabilities and begin to match these with opportunities in the new industries through retraining, business growth and marketing.

Welcoming the Caithness initiative, Liz Cameron of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said, “This is a wonderful example of the private sector leading the way.  This programme is transformational on two counts. First, it will help hundreds of individuals think about how they can become involved in new industries, and second because it is a regional skills programme being led by the business sector and will be tailored to suit business needs first and foremost.  It’s an excellent inward investment tool for Caithness.”

Some 50 companies are involved directly in decommissioning the Dounreay site, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of the current GDP of the North Highlands, and many more benefit indirectly from consumer spending. The largest single workforce is approximately 900 employed by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), the main clean-up contractor to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Attending the launch event for the NDA, Stakeholder Relations Director Jon Phillips said, “The NDA is committed to mitigating the socio-economics of its activities and recognises Caithness as one of its priority areas.  This programme is the flip side to the NDA’s previous investments in economic diversification in the region, such as our support for Scrabster and Wick harbours. Better infrastructure brings new companies to the area, and there needs to be appropriate skills within the local supply chain to match.  We invested in the Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre in Thurso and NDA and DSRL support for ‘Make the Right Connections’ is another contribution to make sure that local companies are in the best shape they can be to gain new work post Dounreay.”

Chair of Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, Sir Anthony Cleaver is pleased to see the skills programme supported by the public sector. He commented “Since 2006 the public agencies, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Government, Highland Council and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which have economic development in their remit, have worked closely on Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership’s Action Plan, which prioritises renewable energy development, particularly marine renewables in the Pentland Firth, and business service support as the sectors most likely to produce replacement jobs for the Dounreay workforce.  ‘Make the Right Connections’ demonstrates that there is a role for both the public and the private sector in regeneration and we are delighted to see the Caithness Chamber of Commerce stepping up to the plate again.”

Danny Logue, head of operations with Skills Development Scotland said: “Supporting the transition of skills within and across key sectors is among SDS’ priorities as it works with others to equip Scotland’s economy to gain competitive growth. Energy has huge potential for Scotland and SDS is pleased to demonstrate its commitment to working with other agencies to support one of its key inputs - a skilled and adaptable workforce”.

The Chamber has recruited two people to deliver the programme over the next three years, with a target to help to 400 people each year.

Source
Caithness Chamber of Commerce:

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