HM Insights

Government action plan encourages rural economy employers to help bridge the skills gap

The Scottish Government has recently launched an action plan designed to address skills gaps in rural Scotland.

Created by Skills Development Scotland, the action plan is a reaction to findings that there are increased barriers to education and training in rural areas, particularly additional costs and limited opportunities to study locally. Hard-to-fill vacancies are also more prevalent in rural areas and fewer employers arrange or fund training.

The action plan applies a broad and holistic definition of rural skills and covers not only traditional sectors such as farming and forestry but also tourism and energy.

Further, the action plan identified many issues impacting on skills. These ranged from demographic constraints such as limited population growth and an aging population all the way through to poor productivity and underemployment.

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Why is the rural economy important?

Business growth in rural areas since 2010 is 13%, behind the national figure of 17%.

Notwithstanding this the rural economy makes a significant contribution to national economic output, contributing £34,600 million which amounts to some 28% of Scotland's Gross Value Added.

This accounts for 28% of all employment in Scotland.

What is the Government proposing to help?

Among the actions listed in the plan to tackle skills issues in rural Scotland are increasing use of e-learning and digital technology to enable people to learn off campus.

Further actions include promotion and the extension of evening and weekend classes, and using shared apprenticeship models to encourage more small businesses to offer apprenticeships.

What can employers in rural areas do to make themselves more attractive?

There is no simple answer to this, but steps might include engaging with educational establishments to make children/students aware of options open to them, to being inventive about how they market themselves the wider population.

The rural economy offers something different from the typical 9-5 grind; whereas the work can be hard, the rewards can be great.

There are a wide array of schemes available to employers seeking to upskill their workforce and such schemes might help create employment opportunities. As broadband is rolled out, the world becomes a much smaller place with chances to take course by distance learning.

Get in touch

Our employment team support large and small employers throughout the rural sector, and are well placed to assist in tackling the specific challenges faced by such employers. Please contact one of the team to discuss any issue your business may be facing.