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HIE to help innovative businesses create hundreds of jobs across the region

14th June 2010

A £2.4 million project to place 350 fresh academic minds in ambitious businesses across the region is being introduced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Over the next three years small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises from across the region will be supported to employ university students, graduates and post-graduates for up to a year. The new employees will focus on innovative projects the business otherwise would not be able to progress.

'Talent Scotland Graduate Placement Programme' comprises three tailor-made strands which will allow these businesses to tap into the latest research, theory and technological developments in their fields.

"Encouraging innovative thinking in business directly affects productivity, competitiveness and growth. The graduate programme will provide a way for hundreds of Highlands and Islands businesses to think innovatively while giving tomorrow's entrepreneurs vital experience in a full-time job.

Survey figures indicate we have a lower number of graduates in the Highlands and Islands workforce than the Scottish average. 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 study to work," said HIE Chair William Roe.

HIE has invested £1.375 million and in addition has also secured £769,000 from the European Regional Development Fund. Partners include the Scottish Government, the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland, the Technology Strategy Board and has support of Scotland�s universities.

Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, said: "The creation of more direct links between business and universities will stimulate further innovation and enhance business performance across the area. This programme offers a valuable opportunity for young people leaving university to gain a foothold in small and medium sized businesses in some of our most rural and fragile communities."

The programme has a strong focus on supporting businesses in some of Scotland's most rural and remote areas. All placements are paid and there is a sliding scale of wage subsidies available depending on where the business is located. In fragile areas and areas of employment deficit there is 60% support for the Graduates into Business strand, which can last for between six and 12 months.

In addition there is an eight week summer placement project for undergraduates.

A third initiative being incorporated into the programme creates a partnership between the business and a University department. This involves the placement of a highly skilled graduate who works between the University and the business to transfer knowledge. These intensive Shorter Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are designed to run for between a 10-40 week period.HIE has set an ambitious target of seeing 60 partnerships to be established over the next three years.

The partnership programme has been designed to meet the needs of business while developing the skills and experience of the young people who will shortly be working for them.

Caithness Stone Industries - graduate placement case study

Creating lasting pieces of work that will be appreciated by future generations is surely every artists dream, and for two graduates in Caithness they enjoy this reality on a grand scale every day.

Natalie Horner and Tamara Hicks are design graduates who came to work with Caithness Stone Industries on a placement programme almost two years ago. Some of their projects can be seen in public buildings, people's homes and on signs and landmarks across the country.

The business, which was launched almost 20 years ago, provides primarily Caithness stone and slate, although they also work in wood and steel.†† Its 30 strong team work together to quarry, split and create precision cut, customised products using state of the art equipment.

Having been kept on after the placement both young women now play their part in the in-house design and production. Natalie, 25, is originally from Yorkshire and is delighted that the original scheme gave her a foot in the door.

She commented: "I wouldn't live anywhere else now, I love it.† Every day is different and the work I am involved in is hugely rewarding.† I have learned so much from the highly skilled team who work here.† We have created everything from illustrative panels for places like the Dunbeath Heritage Centre, to stunning standing stones for town centres including Dingwall and Swindon, to the unique pieces we make for clients and visitors who come to the showroom."

24 year old Tamara left Thurso to study her BA Hons in design and craft at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen.† She specialised in 3d design and is also a sculptor.†
"Working with Caithness Stone Industries is amazing.† We are encouraged to keep up to date with all the latest techniques and are able to put forward our ideas for creating and marketing new products and services," she said.

Business owner John Sutherland said the graduate scheme had been valuable.† "Employing graduates with specialist skills has given us more capacity to develop the business in new ways.† As a team we are taking on exciting projects like the spectacular focal point in Fort William of the West Highland Way map which we have sandblasted into Caithness paving stones."

He added: "Tamara and Natalie have enjoyed their role in nurturing our showroom at Spittal, where in addition to all our other work we now get many visitors who want to see the team in action."

HIE's Annemarie Monteforte works with Caithness Stone Industries on their growth plans for the future, she commented: "These young women are a classic example of what is so good about the graduate placement scheme.† Natalie has come to live and work in the area and Tamara has been able to do the work she loves locally. These are skilled positions and it benefits the business, the community and the region that graduate placement helped them get work here."

 

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