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New charter aims to boost Orkney’s post-pandemic prospects

Councillor James Stockan was one of the signatories of the new charter.

A new agreement has been reached to put skills and training at the heart of Orkney’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Orkney Partnership Board and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) have signed a charter to improve collaboration and enhance the learning, training and upskilling opportunities for people and businesses across the Islands.

Launched at a virtual event on Monday, the Orkney Partnership SDS Charter focuses on the needs of employers to access skilled talent, and ensure that people have clear, accessible, and appropriate routes into employment with opportunities to grow and develop their skills.

Amongst the measures outlined in the charter, is a commitment to develop detailed labour market evidence to understand the economic impact of COVID-19. This aims to help maximise the benefits from the move to net-zero and the opportunities that the Islands Deal will provide for the workforce and economy.

A recent assessment undertaken by SDS suggests there will be around 2,600 replacement jobs in the Orkney workforce between now and 2030, with factors including the ageing workforce contributing towards the figure.

In a bid to encourage young people to remain on, or return to Orkney for employment and to attract new talent, there’s a pledge to support the Scottish Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee — including a commitment to increase foundation, modern and graduate apprenticeship programmes.

Seonag Campbell, SDS islands service development and delivery manager, said: “As we look to life beyond the pandemic and recover from its impact, there’s even greater need for SDS and the Orkney Partnership Board to work collectively to meet the needs of individuals and businesses, and that support is coordinated well and being delivered effectively.

“The new Orkney Partnership Board and SDS Charter goes a long way to meeting this aim and will be essential in guiding how we strengthen the level of careers information and guidance, the funding of apprenticeship programmes, attracting investment opportunities and upskilling/reskilling the current workforce.

“Most significantly, the charter will also ensure that the delivery of education and skills services meets the unique economic needs of the communities in the Orkney Isles.”

The charter was signed by Councillor James Stockan, chairman of the Orkney Partnership Board and SDS chief executive Damien Yeates.

Councillor Stockan said: “We really welcome the charter which comes at a crucial time and will help plan and provide career opportunities for Orkney’s traditional sectors as well as support growth and investment in the skills required for a green economy.

“It is essential that we ‘future proof’ the workforce and have confidence that education, skills, and training provision are available to deliver the best outcomes for all.

“In addition, the value of true partnership working to tackle the skills and workforce challenges will maximise an effective response to the ongoing challenges and ensure a unified approach in the offer to the current and future workforce.”

The charter was also welcomed by Glen McLellan, general manager of NOV and chairman of the Orkney Economic Recovery Group.

He said: “The Orkney Partnership/SDS charter is a hugely important initiative, which comes at a critical time for businesses as well as for young people and adults looking for jobs.

“Both the economic and jobs landscapes have changed dramatically in the last 12 – 18 months and now more than ever, we need to build the skills base in Orkney to ensure that we can build back our economy better.”

“I am very confident that the Charter will help to increase the size of the local skilled workforce needed to meet the projected demand through their partnership approach working with key stakeholders including local businesses.”