Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) commissioned the work. It will build on the agency’s 2015 study, which demonstrated an overwhelming sense of pride and confidence in the Highlands and Islands among the 4,400 young people who took part.
This new study will explore opportunities around education, training and employment for 15 to 30-year-olds, and how these can be maximised.
Contractor ekosgen is carrying out an online survey to gather views of young people living in the region. The survey is also targeted at young people living elsewhere who may be interested in considering the Highlands and Islands as a place to live and work.
Those taking part in the survey can enter a prize draw, with prizes including tickets to Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and Groove Loch Ness, as well as vouchers for Spotify and Netflix.
The findings of the study will be used to inform future policy to facilitate both population growth and talent attraction and retention across the region.
Carroll Buxton, regional development director with HIE, said:
“Young economically active people are absolutely key to the future prosperity of the Highlands and Islands. They bring new, fresh ideas, qualifications and skills, which will be needed to meet the recruitment needs of growing businesses and new companies arriving in the region. They are also crucial in the long-term sustainability of communities.
“These are just some of the reasons why this is such an important age group for us. We need to work with our partners in the public and private sectors, and in education, to do all we can to make sure opportunities for young people in the Highlands and Islands rival those to be found elsewhere. Those who want to stay here should have the opportunity to do so. Those who want to return after graduating should be able to come back and pursue rewarding and progressive careers. And those relocating from elsewhere should be motivated to choose the Highlands and Islands as a great place to live and work.
“Understanding young people’s attitudes towards, and aspirations for the region is fundamental to informing the work that we and our partners do in meeting their needs, and indeed the needs of industry and communities. That’s what this study is all about and we very much look forward to seeing the findings.”
Net out-migration of young people from the Highlands and Islands has been a concern for many years. Many young people are motivated to leave the region, most notably to access further or higher education.
In 2016 the proportion of young people living in the Highlands and Islands figure was 17% of the population, compared to 21% for Scotland overall. This gap is partly countered by a gradual inflow of young people returning to the region in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, however it still creates challenges in strengthening communities and increasing economic growth in the region.
HIE’s ‘Young People and the Highlands and Islands – Attitudes and Aspirations’ study in 2015 highlighted an appetite to live, work and study in the region. The connection young people have to their home areas emerged as a definite ‘pull’ factor drawing them back to their local communities.
The study identified high quality jobs and career progression opportunities, as well access to housing, transport and education, as vital factors in supporting sustained population retention and attraction.
The online survey can be found at www.hie.co.uk/yp-research