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Cabinet Secretary sees Park Construction Skills Project in action

28th October 2011

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell will today (Friday 28 October 2011) see how unemployed people under the age of 25 in the Cairngorms National Park are learning new skills to help them secure jobs in the local area.

The Cairngorms Construction Skills Project provides training and qualifications through study at Inverness College three days a week coupled with work experience at a range of community projects in the Cairngorms National Park for the other two days.

Sites they’re working on include decorating Insch Church Hall; fencing and gardening work at St. Vincents Hospital in Kingussie and bridge, path repairs and undergrowth clearance works on the Wildcat Trail at Newtonmore.

The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) provides the sites along with a dedicated project officer to work with the unemployed young people. On successful completion of their training, they receive a recognised qualification through Inverness College.

Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life Long Learning, said: “Scotland’s National Parks are ideally placed to help deliver initiatives like this tremendous training project which provides youngsters the opportunity to gain real skills which will benefit them now and in the years to come.

“Good learning and training can take place anywhere and outdoor learning creates some of the most enriching experiences for young people across a wide range of environments. It also helps those involved connect with our natural and cultural heritage as well as giving them confidence and independence.

“What we see with this project is an excellent example of a partnership initiative which provides a first class learning  and training experience and paves the way for successful futures for the youngsters involved.”

Mr Russell is visiting an HSCHT owned site near Kincraig to meet some of the trainees and see them preparing and marking an area of trees. The site was bought by the Trust from Forestry Commission Scotland under their Affordable Rural Land Scheme and is being developed in two phases. The first phase of four sustainable and affordable timber houses was allocated to local households in 2009 and the second phase will involve the Construction Skills project team in helping to build six more homes.

Bill Hall, Chair of the HSCHT, said: “The various projects which the trainees gain experience of, in the National Park, allows us to assess their attitude to general work activities and then provide a reference to complement the qualification from Inverness College.

“The trees being marked for clearance by the trainees today will be retained and used on site for various uses including a children’s play area. Retaining and using all timber on site has environmental benefits which is a key theme of the project.”

The project is funded and supported by partners including the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), the Cairngorms Local Action Group LEADER Fund, Scottish Government, The Highland Council, Inverness College, Cairn Housing Association, HSCHT and Henry Smith Charity.

Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, David Green, said: “Making the Cairngorms National Park a viable, attractive place for young people to live, work and enjoy is an ongoing priority for everyone involved in the future development of the Park.

“The Cairngorms Construction Skills Project is making a significant contribution to this, having helped to enhance employment opportunities for those taking part. Providing high quality, recognised training over the last two years and improving the overall environment of the Cairngorms National Park with the projects they have worked on.”

Grants Manager of the Cairngorms Local Action Group, Patricia Methven, said: “The Local Action Group was delighted to see a project coming forward with such a high level of innovation and in support of the training of young people.  This is a project which helps to fulfill the needs of the many young people out of work in the area and that will provide them with the skills for a productive future.”