Energy giants SSE – who plan to invest £5-£10billion in the Highlands and Islands over the next decade – has struck a deal with Scotland’s newest university to boost local job opportunities.
• Energy firm SSE have reached agreement with University of Highlands and Islands to launch apprenticeship programme and other forms of investment
• Between £5-10 billion is to be invested in the Highlands and Island region by SSE
A “partnership agreement” signed with bosses at the University of Highlands and Islands will result in a range of developments, including a new apprenticeship programme to begin next month with around 30 trainees.
SSE chief executive Ian Marchant also gave a commitment to target areas around proposed new developments for the recruitment and training of future employees, particularly in Caithness and Sutherland and also in the Great Glen.
The collaboration is aimed at maximising the benefits from the low carbon renewable energy revolution.
Speaking at the University’s research and development conference in Inverness, he said there was to be significant investment by the energy industry over the next ten years, with SSE’s contribution to this being potentially £5-10bn in the Highlands and Islands alone.
He added that both SSE and UHI recognised the importance of working together to ensure the skills and people were in place to take advantage of this opportunity.
Mr Marchant said: “We recognise that the communities in which we work and operate are very important and that SSE has a valuable role in contributing to the local economy of these communities.
“SSE is committed to making sure that Highland businesses and communities benefit from, and have a real part in, what we believe is a very exciting time for the Highlands.
“Quite rightly the people in the Great Glen or Caithness and Sutherland ask the question – ‘can our young people be trained and employed to run your existing and future power stations and wind farms?’ The answer to that from me, is an emphatic yes.
“Should our projects currently in the planning system gain planning approval, we make this commitment – SSE will target areas such as Lairg and the wider Sutherland area, Fort Augustus and the Great Glen, and work with the schools and colleges in these areas to bring young people into our industry and train them so that they get the best chance of long term employment.
“This new strategic partnership between SSE and UHI will play a significant part in ensuring this happens.
“There is no doubt that this new University with its diverse range of colleges and research centres spread across the region will play a key role in providing the skills, training and expertise we need in future.
“SSE already employs over 2,000 direct employees and contractors in the Highlands, operating our power stations electricity networks, retail outlets and in our growing energy services business.
“We are determined to see the benefit of renewable energy continue to flow into these same communities and to enable a new generation of local people to connect with and find employment from Energy.”
UHI’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor James Fraser said: “The University is delighted to sign this collaborative agreement with SSE.
“The University partnership of 13 colleges and research centres is unique in encompassing both further and higher education and in covering the whole of the Highlands and Islands, including Moray, Perth and Kinross.
“SSE and its supply chain need highly trained staff. We can help deliver these skills through our collective expertise in further education and knowledge from higher education.
“The University is ready to play a key role in supporting the transformation of the Highlands and Islands economy through the development of the renewable energy industry, the electricity grid and the continued progress of oil and gas.
“It is very fitting to announce this collaborative venture at our annual Research Conference. In addition to teaching and training in the longer term we expect to provide research and consultancy to SSE as it tackles some of the new challenges posed by the new energy industry.”
The partnership is establishing a new steering group to oversee this collaboration and to ensure local businesses and communities are also engaged.
The partnership will build on the £3m that SSE has already committed to training and skills in the Highlands.
SSE is already working with the university on a new energy training scheme at Inverness College UHI, designed to give 16-24 year olds in the Highlands the opportunity of kick starting a career in the energy industry.
This programme is currently providing 28 young people with 12 months of intensive training, alongside employment and hands-on experience within SSE.
A diverse range of topics are covered through the programme including, construction, electrical engineering, the energy industry and broad ‘craft’ skills.
SSE’s Highland apprenticeship programme will re-open in December, which alongside SSE’s techical skills programme, will provide new employment opportunities for around 30 young people in the Highlands.
SSE has also recently launched a new website www.sseopen4business-highlands.com - designed specifically to offer Highland businesses, service providers and local suppliers the opportunity to do business with the UK’s second largest energy company.