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3 October 2014
A new partnership designed to encourage uptake of skilled rural careers has been launched in Aberdeenshire.
The Deeside Initiative, which aims to bring schools, estates and sector bodies together to enhance career pathways for those wishing to enter the land-based sector, was unveiled at an event in Ballater.
Aimed at those with an interest in rural skills and parties with a desire to develop a skilled workforce, the establishment of the Deeside Initiative is the main recommendation to come from research work undertaken across a number of estates in Grampian and the Cairngorms National Park.
In partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates commissioned a Rural Skills Audit, with the primary aim of identifying the current supply, uptake and future demand for rural skills training in the land-based sector across Grampian and the Cairngorms National Park.
In response to the findings of the Rural Skills Audit, a series of proposals were put forward with the establishment of the Deeside Initiative a main recommendation to act as a focal point for estates, schools, sector organisations and agencies to develop a strategy for skills development and future industry needs. At its first meeting, the partnership has brought together more than 40 stakeholders from across the region.
The meeting builds on the outcomes of a seminar that took place in January on the Balmoral Estate led by The Duke of Rothesay, as The Prince of Wales is known in Scotland. By bringing together education leaders and rural employers, His Royal Highness hopes that more opportunities will be created for young people to pursue careers in the rural sector.
Key areas of work for the Deeside Initiative will include the introduction of a register of champion estates which will engage with schools and a commitment from estates, schools and sector bodies to work together to develop a valued career pathway for those wishing to enter the sector.
A number of young people from schools in Deeside have already had the chance to gain experience of the rural sector as the project has progressed to this stage. Aboyne Academy has been working with Glentanar Estate, Ballogie Estate and Dinnet Estate on a programme of forestry visits to see the work that goes on and the career opportunities that are available.  These visits are as a direct result of the first Rural Skills Seminar which was held at Balmoral Estate in January.
Malcolm MacIntyre, Deputy Rector at Aboyne Academy said: “I am delighted that the Deeside Initiative is being established and it is offering real opportunities for young people to become engaged in a meaningful way with rural employers. 
“Despite livening in upper Deeside, many young people are unaware of the opportunities of working in the rural sector and I am convinced that this initiative will have a very positive impact on young people and local communities.”
Sarah-Jane Laing, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at Scottish Land & Estates said: “The creation of the Deeside Initiative marks an exciting step forward for those with the future of our rural economy at heart to come together to develop practical work programmes and improve communications between the land-based and education sectors.
“In developing the initiative we have received input from a wide range of stakeholders and there is a real willingness for everyone to play their part in developing skills for the rural economy, not least from young people already embarking on a career in the rural sector. They have provided real insight into their aspirations and also the challenges they have faced and hopefully this knowledge can be used when addressing the issues that exist.
“We have seen a real commitment from the education sector, employers and agencies to provide career paths into the rural sector which is of vital importance to the Aberdeenshire economy. However, there is no reason why this partnership, in time, cannot be replicated across other parts of the country and that will be the aim going forward.
“The role of HRH The Duke of Rothesay has also been critical in providing impetus to the project and without this assistance, it is unlikely we would have been able to establish the initiative in such a short space of time.
“Similarly, our members are keen to invest in their current and future workforce to ensure that the jobs people are choosing to do are both meaningful and valued.  The Deeside Initiative will allow them to do that in a very positive way.”

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