School leavers targeted by local firms in bid to tackle depopulation crisis

A variety of businesses have sprung into action to recruit and retain young people into local careers.

Businesses are joining forces to recruit more school leavers into local careers in rural areas of Scotland.

The Highlands are facing a depopulation crisis; the number of young people living in the area is decreasing while the ageing population is growing.

As part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week, businesses in Lochaber are hoping to reverse the trend.

It’s estimated the population of the region, which currently sits at around 20,000, will fall by 5% by 2040.

School visitor Poppy said: “We know of these companies but maybe not all about the opportunities and how we get into these careers.

Pupils learned about a range of industries in the area

From aquaculture, metal works and transport, pupils were exposed to a wide range of potential jobs at a recruitment fair which was held at Lochaber High School.

Tom Uppington, managing direector of Alvance said: “We have a real skills shortage here, so if we can attract people, they stay here. If they go elsewhere to get skills, then it’s a struggle to get them back.

“If they come work for us we can keep them local.”

BSW Timber operational leader Oliver Stephen, added: “It’s about educating people about what’s on their doorsteps, but also the range of opportunities.

“Us, for example; it’s not just engineering, it’s about the other hundred and so jobs that also exist within.”

It's hoped more young people will remain in the local area to help boost the economy

Highland Council say rural Scotland is facing a “depopulation crisis”.

More than half (52%) of the population live in Fort William, according to Highland Council figures.

It’s hoped more young people will be inspired to stay and work in Lochaber – reversing the trend of depopulation and boosting the local economy.

But employers warn more are choosing to leave because of the high cost of housing.

Carly Ferguson from Ferguson Transport & Shipping said: “Housing is obviously a major factor in this area, so people of an age either can’t get housing or afford it.

MOWI HR Business Partner Sarah Ralston added: “A lot of people want to go on and get more education and training.

“They think they have to move to do this – but we can provide some of these additional education opportunities.”

The Scottish Government has set up a £180,000 Addressing Depopulation Fund for three ‘acutely’ affected council areas of Scotland.

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