Weekly update, 31st August

Energy & Business Services

As work continues to help ensure that the north is prepared to take advantage of the significant economic potential from offshore wind developments off the east coast of Caithness/ Sutherland, Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) is holding a workshop in Wick next week with its engineering, procurement and construction contractors and CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). Representatives from each organisation will be on hand to provide an update on the latest project information and answer any questions on the day. Speed networking opportunities are also planned. Interested companies can book a place at the event by registering at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/beatrice-open4business-supply-chain-event-wick-tickets-18259566856

Enabling Activities

Both the Wick John O’Groats Airport Committee and the Caithness Transport Forum met this week. The Airport Committee heard welcome updates from HIAL on work to the previously-unsightly hangar façade beside the Terminal building, and on progress with major refurbishment of the airport apron. HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon also prompted a very constructive discussion on how the committee might help assess future flight connectivity from Wick. The Transport Forum’s very full agenda covered a range of local transport issues, with much discussion on proposed changes to Stagecoach’s Caithness schedules, and efforts to ensure that any effects could be addressed. The meeting also heard from Scotrail representatives about refurbished coaches due next year on the Far North Line. Both groupings are managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce with financial support from organisations including CNSRP partners DSRL and Highland Council. HIAL is currently recruiting for the post of Air Traffic Controller at Wick, and further information on this opportunity is at https://hialcareers.co.uk/jobs/vacancy/ab-initio-air-traffic-control-officer-wick-0145/163/description/

I met this week with Chris Aitken of Wick High School to discuss elements of the fantastic work led by him that relates to elements within the CNSRP Programme. We talked about the huge interest in computing science amongst Wick students, and the opportunities for these transferrable skills (gained through experience of UK-wide competitions such as Apps for Good) to be more visible to employers in the area. CNSRP partners HIE and Highland Council have been very supportive of these initiatives. Indeed Chris and several of his students delivered a presentation on their work to last week’s Adult & Children’s Services committee of the Highland Council, film of which can be viewed at http://www.highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/150136 The presentation to Councillors followed closely from the announcement that Council had been successful in attracting £250,000 from the Scottish Government’s “Inspiring Learning Fund” which will support ways to improve use of technology in delivering learning. I also I mentioned in our discussion the current hope that Caithness Chamber of Commerce is successful in attracting funding for its “Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce” programme, which aims to bring schools, colleges and employers closer together with a view to stimulating more employment opportunities.

On the same theme it is good to see the announcement this week of continuing Scottish Government support for Science Festivals, including the Caithness International Science Festival. The United Nations’ “Year of Light 2015” provides a powerful backdrop to the promotion of STEM-related topics. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Celebrating-science-1c8a.aspx

CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland will be staging a second major PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) event in Aberdeen this month, and SDS Area Team leader Alistair Ferrier and colleagues from North Highland College will attend the event to raise awareness of employment opportunities in the north. More details of the event at http://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/content/help-in-the-oil-and-gas-industry

Communications:

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:

  • Foundation Scotland has announced the first two grant schemes of its “Spirit of Caithness” programme. Spirit of Caithness is part of Spirit of 2012’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games legacy programme Fourteen; instigated by Spirit’s investment in the Glasgow 2014 XX Commonwealth Games and its legacy around the UK. It is managed for Foundation Scotland in Caithness by former CNSRP secondee Eilidh Gunn. The “On Your Marks” and “Sparks!” schemes are open to community groups and individuals, and further information is available at https://www.foundationscotland.org.uk/programmes/spiritofcaithness/