Weekly update, 30th January 2017

Energy & business services:
• Partners kicked off a piece of work this week to look at short/ medium/ long term opportunities for the north mainland to gain further economic benefit from oil & gas work, particularly focusing on the continuing interest around west of Shetland oil & gas developments, for which locations like Scrabster are very well placed. The work has been commissioned by CNSRP partner HIE, and is being delivered by Ernst & Young.
• The team from Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) have now moved into temporary offices in the Wick Harbour Authority building (formerly occupied by the North Highland Initiative team, who have moved across the road into other office space) as preparations continue for the start of work on the £10M Operations and Maintenance base further along the harbourfront in Wick. Two representatives of the project will be present at this week’s “Jobs and How to Get Them” event in Thurso (see below for further details).

Enabling activities:
• Tomorrow (Saturday 4th February, in the ETEC facility at North Highland College from 10am-2pm) is the “Jobs and How to Get Them” event (see my online blog for ev. This year’s event will be the fifth in the annual series organised by Caithness Chamber of Commerce with support from CNSRP partners Highland Council, Skills development Scotland, North Highland College and Job Centre Plus. Around 40 organisations will be in attendance, offering advice and support on employability issues, as well as information on current and future employment opportunities. There will also be a chance to take a tour of the excellent Engineering facility within the ETEC building. Myself and Marcus Mennie from Caithness Chamber took to the airwaves of Caithness FM this week to talk about the event.
• One of the features of the “Jobs and How to Get Them” event above is the advice available to school pupils on subject choices. This week I was invited with Marcus Mennie to give a presentation on future employment opportunities at an information evening for parents of S3, 4 and 5 pupils at Thurso High School. Marcus gave some information on the Chamber’s “Developing The Young Workforce” programme, and I delivered a version of the presentation that myself and Simon Middlemas were delivering to Dounreay workers last summer. My presentation aimed to highlight the opportunities for long-term skilled jobs based in the area.
• Scrabster Harbour Trust has been reporting continued growth in harbour activity and revenues during 2016, with £2.95M in revenue coming into the Trust from increased port activity. Trust Manager Sandy Mackie highlights the crucial role played in this growth by the development of the Jubliee Quay, which was an early priority project for CNSRP partners. More info on the Trust’s performance, together with some excellent videos of related port activity, is at http://www.scrabster.co.uk/scrabster-harbour-looks-forward-with-confidence-in-2017/ As mentioned at “Energy & Business Services” above, the port continues to play a vital role in identifying and securing future economic opportunities.

Orange ballast blocks being prepared for the MeyGen project at Scrabster’s Jubilee Quay


• I mentioned last week that the plans to create a network of “Newton Rooms” in the Highlands had progressed, so it was good to see this week that £3M of funding has been confirmed for the programme through the Inverness City-Region Deal, which was officially signed on Monday by Highland Council, the Scottish and UK Governments at a ceremony in Invergordon. As I noted, a group of partners CNSRP partners have been working to ensure that Thurso can become the first Newton Room in the Highlands. http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/3m-highland-city-region-deal-funding-released-for-science-skills-academy.html#sthash.mGjdFnju.dpbs

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:
• Scottish Provincial Press published its regular Energy North supplement last week, with its usual selection of stories including tidal energy, Beatrice Offshore Windfarm, Scottish renewable energy figures, and CNSRP partner Highlands and Island Enterprise’s oil & gas decommissioning plan. You can now view the publication online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=9cec21bd-36b2-410f-b00c-d00dbecf8083
• I was asked this week by local press to comment on the likely impact of the Inverness City-Region Deal funds (see “Enabling Activities” above) on projects in the north. Of the early projects submitted for consideration under the 20 year programme, I was able to say that local partners had been involved in discussions on both the Newton Rooms and Northern Innovation Hub concepts, and also looked forward to discussion on the opportunities from the digital, skills and assisted-living projects.