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Weekly update, 20th August 2012

Enabling Activities:
Representatives of Skills Development Scotland, JobCentre Plus, Highland Council’s Employability team, North Highland College, Caithness Chamber of Commerce, HIE, Dounreay and the Scottish Qualifications Authority met in Thurso this week and agreed funding and project management arrangements for an event to be held in November that will focus on future job opportunities in the north’s changing economy. As previously reported, I have been helping bring together the key organisations to focus on what is being done to support the skills needed in industries that are likely to be crucial in the area’s economy over the next 10-15 years. It was agreed that Caithness Chamber of Commerce will coordinate the event, which will be held in the new Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College. More information in due course.

At this week’s Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee meeting of the Highland Council there were two reports presented – one on the procurement of the new Highland Council office complex in Wick, the other on the new schools and related community facilities being built in Wick. Officials said that Council analysis of the tenders confirms that almost all of the spend on the Council Office contract is likely to be through firms based in the Highlands, with over £1M likely to go directly to Caithness companies, providing welcome news for the construction industry. The schools project is to be carried out with Hubco, and the contract carries a key performance indicator related to the number of graduates/ apprenticeships per £million of project value. There is also a commitment to ensure that local companies are able to tender for at least 80% of the contracts outwith the main construction contract. Hubco are due to run events for interested companies during September/ October.

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

  • The Partnership’s Delivery Group met this week, and focused on outcomes from last week’s meeting with HIAL at Wick Airport, as well as agreeing further progress in bringing forward priority projects for joint funding consideration by partners. Papers have also been circulated for next week’s meeting of the Partnership’s Advisory Board.
  • As mentioned last week Stuart Black, Director of Planning & Development at Highland Council presented a progress report on CNSRP at the first meeting of the Highland Council’s Area Committee for Caithness and Sutherland earlier this week. I attended to help answer questions on current issues and progress. The elected members gave a very positive welcome to the progress described in the report, and questions focused on key enabling activities such as development of Wick Airport, and on progress with employment opportunities. The report is still available to view or download at and a webcast of the meeting is available to view at (CNSRP item begins about 20 minutes in).  CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver issued a statement welcoming the support given by elected members, and this is available to view at
  • A former DSRL employee’s new business start-up receives coverage in this week’s press. “Cups” is a new tea-room in Scrabster and its development has been supported by DSRL’s own staff transition programme, and by Business Gateway. One of the findings from the recent independent study into “The Socio-economic Impact of Dounreay Decommissioning” was that Dounreay workers are 25% more likely to stay in the area beyond their Dounreay employment than they were in 2006, and of those more than twice as many as in 2006 are likely to consider starting their own business. Last year Business Gateway gave start-up support to over 30 new businesses in Caithness.