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HELP for Scotland’s rural businesses to recruit and grow the skills they need is in the spotlight thanks to a new guide being published for the first time.

The Rural Employers’ Toolkit offers practical guidance on training, apprenticeships and placement support for rural businesses across all sectors of the economy.

The toolkit was launched by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon on a visit to The WeeCOOK Kitchen in Angus – a business that invested in apprenticeships as part of its growth strategy.

Ms Gougeon said: “Rural businesses across Scotland have shown great resilience in recent times and they will play a central role in driving economic recovery.

“Adapting skills to deal with emerging challenges and grasping new opportunities is a fundamental part of that, this guide will help businesses of all sizes identify the steps they can take to grow and thrive.

“It spotlights the options available for employers and the steps they can take to ensure their business and people are well-equipped for the future.”

The toolkit was developed by Lantra Scotland which offers training, qualifications and skills in the land-based, aquaculture and environmental sector.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon

"This guide will help businesses of all sizes identify the steps they can take to grow and thrive."

Lantra Scotland’s Project Co-ordinator Annabel Brown said “The rural economy depends upon a diverse range of industries such as energy, forestry, manufacturing, tourism, food and drink and health and social care.

“As a result, an extremely broad range of skills is needed, and this toolkit will enable businesses to identify the steps they need to take and the support that they can call on to find the right talent and grow.”

The toolkit supports the implementation of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland, published by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in 2019.

Katie Fox, Skills Planning Manager (Rural Economy) at Skills Development Scotland, said: “We know that people are key to driving forward our rural communities, making them sustainable and inclusive places to live, work and thrive.

“That means providing support to businesses so they have the right people with the right skills needed for inclusive and sustainable growth.

“That’s the aim of the Skills Action Plan for Rural Scotland and the publication of this guide is one element of that support.”

Publication of the toolkit was welcomed by Hayley Wilkes, chef and owner of the WeeCOOK Kitchen.

The family-run restaurant based at Barry Downs near Carnoustie has grown over recent years thanks to investing in apprenticeships and skill support.

Hayley said: “Rural businesses such as ours are the lifeblood of many communities right across Scotland, and skills are a key part of what will make a business successful.

“We’ve introduced four apprentices and really benefited from some of the opportunities that are highlighted in the toolkit.

“Investing in skills pays dividends so our advice would be for other rural employers to take a closer look.”

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