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A new Charter has formalised a commitment to employment, education and skills in the Western Isles by the Comhairle and the national skills agency – with a pledge to provide support with the process of accessing low-cost housing for apprentices in the region.

The Charter, developed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES), 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.

Combined offer

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.

SDS’s 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.”

Committed

Comhairle Chief Executive 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.”

“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.”

Paul Wheelhouse MSP

Islands Minister 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 added: “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.”

Signing of Charter Agreement Between SDS and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Signing of Charter Agreement Between SDS and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

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