Argyll and the Islands

Oban based Social Enterprise benefits from award winning placements

An Oban-based tourist attraction is hoping to find another future business star after its previous graduate placement made such an impact that the company employed her.

An Oban-based tourist attraction is hoping to find another future business star after its previous graduate placement made such an impact that the company employed her.

Now Dunollie Projects has taken on a second graduate through the same award-winning programme.

Dunollie Projects runs Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds which provides unique outdoor spaces, learning and exhibition space and shares valuable heritage with visitors.

It also showcases some of its most treasured artefacts including the Clan Collection – archives plus 4000 accumulated objects from long occupation by successive Chiefs of the Clan MacDougall and the ‘Hope MacDougall collection’ - over 5,000 objects providing an intimate insight into the ordinary lives of local people.

The visitor attraction provides a diverse, quirky and fascinating record of the region's social history within the grounds of Dunollie Castle, which remains the seat and ancestral home of Clan MacDougall.

The business opened in spring 2012 and has seen visitor numbers double year on year. Its enterprise growth plan focuses on expanding exhibition space and enhancing outdoor experiences for visitors, with the development of the ‘Garden of Knowledge’, the ‘Fairrie Garden’ and the ‘Enchanted World of Trees’.

The thriving social enterprise is supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which has assisted the project through various exciting developments, including the recruitment in 2012 of Fiona Thomson through the ScotGrad graduate placement programme. 

Fiona was instrumental in driving forward some of the new projects that Dunollie has been delivering such as the historic walking tours, Fasanta- Festival of Textile & Fashion, the Dunollie friends scheme,  gift range and summer activity programme.

Now employed as Visitor Services Manager for Dunollie Museum, Castle & Grounds, Fiona commented: “The placement was a fantastic opportunity for me, particularly at this early stage in my career.”

Recently recruited ScotGrad Gillian Campbell will work with Fiona on the marketing side of the business with a focus on maximising interest in Dunollie, the world wide clan and engaging the local community and tourist market, thus ultimately increasing sales for the Social Enterprise.

Jane Isaacson, Sustainability & Development Manager at Dunollie, said: “The ScotGrad programme has been extremely valuable to Dunollie, it has brought us fresh up-to-date ideas and supported us in employing people to assist our growth.”

Launched in 2010, ScotGrad is an award winning programme which aims to enhance graduate employability prospects by providing recent graduates with paid, project-based work experience, whilst businesses benefit from up-to-date academic knowledge and fresh thinking to help the business grow.

Kerrie Grant, Head of Strengthening Communities at HIE, said: “Companies across Argyll and the Islands have benefited greatly from the programme and businesses have been impressed by the calibre and knowledge of the graduates recruited. It is also an opportunity for the graduate to gain real insight into a business or organisation and also to experience life in Argyll and the Isles.”

In July this year, ScotGrad was awarded the Association of Graduate Recruiters ‘Work Experience Programme’ Award 2014.

This award recognises excellence for a work experience programme that demonstrates the greatest benefits to both the employer and participant, which ScotGrad successfully showed through impressive statistics and sterling ‘user reviews’.

With a success rate of 92% of placements leading to graduate-level employment, ScotGrad has a clear impact on increasing graduate employability.

The ScotGrad Graduate Placement Programme is a partnership project comprising HIE, SE, Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland and Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service. In the Highlands and Islands the ScotGrad programme is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

To find out more about the ScotGrad programme, visit:

For more information on Dunollie Castle & Grounds, visit:

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