Unemployed young people living in even the remotest of Scottish communities are to be given the chance of formal training to help them into jobs in the rural industries.
They will be offered free places at a new Rural Skills Academy, under a scheme devised by Oatridge College in West Lothian and Access to Industry and funded partly through the European Union.
During a 13 week course the students will be given training in the basic skills needed for a range of landbased sectors, work experience placements and help in a number of other key areas which employers say are vital in the rural workforce. These include literacy, numeracy, marketing and communication. There will be help with travelling expenses and some students may qualify for assistance with accommodation.
Des Martin, Assistant Principal at Oatridge College, says: "The creation of the Rural Skills Academy is recognition of the fact that young unemployed people living in rural parts of Scotland are often overlooked when issues like exclusion and deprivation are being addressed.
"Many of them want to continue to live and find work in their own communities, but until now getting formal training has been difficult. The Rural Skills Academy is open to any young person who is unemployed. They don't need formal educational qualifications, just a desire to learn and a readiness to get their hands dirty.
"At Oatridge we see it as our mission to help all students to achieve their full potential so that they can move in to meaningful, rewarding careers and play their part in strengthening the rural economy. We have a good track record, with 98 percent of our students going into jobs or on to further education."
The Rural Skills Academy offers two distinct programmes. The first is for young people interested in working with horses and leads to a Level 1 SVQ Horse Care qualification. The second leads to a Landbased Operations Level 1 qualification and is for anyone interested in agriculture, conservation, greenkeeping or landscaping and covers a range of units on machinery, hard landscaping, maintenance of grass surfaces, movement and handling of animals and habitat management. Both of the programmes contain mandatory units on health and safety.
After the initial 13 weeks at Oatridge it may be possible to progress to work experience placements for a further 13 weeks. There are start dates for the two programmes in April and September 2007.
Oatridge College stands in its own 383-hectare estate amid the lush, rolling West Lothian countryside. It has its own commercially-operated mixed farm, a pay-and-play nine-hole golf course and is home to the recently opened Scottish National Equestrian Centre.
Although it is a campus in the country, it is within easy reach of most of Scotland's major cities, thanks to the nearby motorway network.
The College has accommodation for 200 live-in students at a time. A new Learning Centre provides state-of-the-art classrooms and lecture rooms, a laboratory and IT suite.
Anyone interested in obtaining further information or an application form can do so by contacting Oatridge College on 01506 864800.