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Park Talk – Convener Xander McDade

3rd October 2019

It’s hard to believe that it is only one year since I stepped into the role as Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) board.  I took up the position during the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People and, as a young person myself, I am proud of the work that the CNPA does with and for young people.

In 2017 the CNPA adopted a Youth Employment Strategy which outlines a commitment to develop the skills of young people and create roles for them in the organisation. Since then the Authority has worked with schools and universities to offer a range of opportunities, including internships, apprentices and work experience days.

To date the CNPA has employed 4 apprentices under the Modern Apprentice scheme, these are two year fixed posts offered to school leavers and cover areas such as admin, IT or marketing.  Our current apprentice Reece Musgrave has just been shortlisted for the HIE business awards as ‘young Apprentice of the Year’  Our internships have also been a great success and have clearly benefitted both the individual and the organisation. The CNPA gets to work with a great young person with fresh ideas, and the interns get valuable on the ground experience that cannot come through books and lectures.

But it’s not all office based, we also work with young people throughout the National Park offering experiences through the Junior Ranger programme and the John Muir Award scheme.  Last year the Youth Manifesto was created which gave a voice to some of the hopes and fears that young people have for the future of their communities.  Following on from that the CNPA will be setting up a Youth Action Team to ensure that the views of the next generation are listened to.  The team will be looking for young people 14-26 who would like to be a part of this innovative group, email [email protected] for more details.

Making young people aware of the many rural skills and careers open to them is one of our areas of work.  The ‘Rural Skills Day’ event was part of the Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend in May,   12-14 year olds from across the National Park came to have a go at some practical activities.  Businesses and organisations supported the event to showcase a range of rural careers.  Upskilling and providing people with practical support is also vital.  This year Cairngorms Nature partnered with Speyside Wildlife to launch a competition to offer two young people a fully funded place on a LANTRA accredited Nature ID course in 2020.  Entries have all been submitted and the judges have invited a shortlist of entrants to come to a final selection day in October.

One of the four aims of the National Park is to promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities, finding work for young people is crucial to economic sustainability.  As the Park Authority we have a duty to lead the way in this area, but I believe we not only lead but go above and beyond in our commitment to the young people in the National Park.