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Energy firm in UHI tie-up to boost north apprenticeships

BRIGHT FUTURE: Ian Marchant, left, and James Fraser with trainees  William McPhee, left, and Adam MacLeod. Sandy McCook
BRIGHT FUTURE: Ian Marchant, left, and James Fraser with trainees William McPhee, left, and Adam MacLeod. Sandy McCook

Energy giant SSE said yesterday it wanted to recruit hundreds of people in the north in the coming years after agreeing a partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Perth-based SSE already has more than 2,000 employees and contractors in the Highlands, but said it signed the deal with UHI to boost apprenticeships in the area and support its plans to spend up to £10billion on north projects over the next decade.

The two organisations are working together to provide intensive training to 28 young people interested in joining the energy industry, while SSE will launch a Highland apprenticeship programme next month. Alongside the company’s technical skills programme, the scheme is expected to create jobs for 30 people.

As part of the partnership agreement, SSE and UHI said they would also work together on promoting innovation and research.

SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said the firm wanted to train and employ young people in the Great Glen, Caithness and Sutherland to run existing and future developments in the area.

He added: “We recognise that the communities in which we work and operate are very important and that SSE has a valuable role in contributing to the local economy.

“Should our projects currently in the planning system gain planning approval, we make this commitment – SSE will target areas such as Lairg and the wider Sutherland area, Fort Augustus and the Great Glen, and work with the schools and colleges in these areas to bring young people into our industry and train them so that they get the best chance of long-term employment.

“This new strategic partnership between SSE and the University of the Highlands and Islands will play a significant part in ensuring this happens.”

An SSE spokesman added the company could not put a figure on how many people it would need to recruit but, depending on how many projects were approved, it could run into “many hundreds”.

UHI principal and vice-chancellor James Fraser said the university’s 13 colleges and research centres could help supply SSE and the wider energy sector with the highly-trained staff it needs. He added: “The university is ready to play a key role in supporting the transformation of the Highlands and islands economy through the development of the renewable-energy industry, the electricity grid and the continued progress of oil and gas.”

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