HIE’s £2.4m bid to beat brain drain

HIE’s £2.4m bid to beat brain drain
Press and Journal

A £2.4million initiative aimed at putting the brakes on the Highlands’ brain drain was unveiled yesterday by the region’s business development agency.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) wants to stem the flow of talented young minds away from the region and encourage them to look more closely at career opportunities on their doorstep.

The initiative comes in the wake of a survey which indicates that the Highlands and islands have a lower number of graduates in their workforce than the Scottish average.

Launching the initiative in Lochaber, HIE chairman William Roe said: “We want more young people to see the range of opportunities that exist in the region and to stay here or return after they have finished their studies to work.”

The £2.4million three-year Talent Scotland Graduate Placement Programme is aimed at placing more than 350 fresh academic minds with ambitious businesses across the region.

Small and medium-sized businesses and social enterprises will be supported to employ university students, graduates and post-graduates for up to a year.

The new employees will focus on innovative projects a business would not otherwise be able to progress while also being able to tap into the latest research, theory and technological developments in their fields.

Mr Roe said: “Encouraging innovative thinking in business directly affects productivity, competitiveness and growth.”

It is helping businesses such as Highland Wood Energy, a young Lochaber business specialising in wood fuel renewable energy, which has taken on Fort William graduate, Craig MacDonald, 26, a mechanical engineering graduate from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh.

The company, which hosted yesterday’s announcement of the initiative, has delivered hundreds of domestic and commercial biomass systems across Scotland and seen its workforce expand from four to 20. It includes three more graduates on a year’s contract.

Mr MacDonald said: “After studying mechanical engineering at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh I had come home to Fort William. After a year of doing some unrelated work I was starting to think I would have to move away to find the right job.

“The graduate programme gave me a year’s contract with Highland Wood energy, during which time I carried out a project creating a troubleshooting guide for domestic boiler systems. I am now responsible for all the design work for large commercial systems.”