A new online survey has been launched to explore the changing aspirations of young people and their attitudes to the Highlands and Islands.
The researchers aim to find out what people aged 15-30 think about education, jobs, quality of life and cost of living in the region.
Five pairs of three-day tickets to the sold-out Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival in August are available to be won by those taking part in the survey.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned consultants ekosgen to undertake the research, which will show whether the attitudes and aspirations of the region’s young people have changed since a previous study six years ago.
In 2009, the agency undertook a study to explore the migration choices of over 3,000 15-30 year olds with links to the Highlands and Islands. This showed that around 1,500 more young people within this age range leave the region each year than choose to move in.
The previous study also showed that the aspirations of young people in the Highlands and Islands did not differ significantly from those living elsewhere in Scotland, and that migration choices were largely determined by education, training and employment opportunities.
Since this last study, a wide range of initiatives and projects have been established to give young people more opportunities to stay in the area if they wish and to attract others to come for the first time.
These include the award-winning ScotGrad graduate placement scheme, the University of the Highlands and Islands being awarded university title, and the current £146m rollout of next generation broadband infrastructure led by HIE and BT throughout the region.
The findings of the ‘Young People and the Highlands and Islands’ research will reveal how these actions are helping to stem the out-migration of young people, and be used by HIE and others to inform further policy development.
The Wood Commission, set up in 2014 to address improve young people’s transition into sustainable employment, recognised that Scotland needs to be internationally competitive to achieve economic success and that young people have a key role in this.
Carroll Buxton, Director of Regional Development at HIE, said: “Young people are a vital part of a thriving Highlands and Islands, and our previous study underlined that specific action needs to be taken to both retain and attract them to the region.
“Based on anecdotal evidence, initiatives such as ScotGrad appear to have made a difference. We now need to assess how aware our young people are of the available opportunities and of what else we and our partners need to address.
“The increasing prevalence of globalisation and increase in digital connectivity across the region may be changing the attitudes of young people to our region and it is extremely important we take this into account.
She said: "This online survey aims to get to the heart of what our latest generation of young people really think and feel about life in the Highlands and Islands.”
According to research undertaken by HIE last year, there were 75,256 people aged 15-29 years old living in the Highlands and Islands in 2011. This equates to 16% of the total 466,122 Highlands and Islands population, which is less than the Scotland average proportion of 20%. If the Highlands and Islands had the same proportion of young people as Scotland, it would have 16,100 more residents in the 15-29 age range.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of 15-29 years old living in the Highlands and Islands increased by almost 10%, which was above the total population percentage increases of 8% and the same as the rate of increase across Scotland.
The survey is open now and closes at the beginning of April 2015. The research should be complete by summer 2015.
More information and the link to the survey can be found at www.hie.co.uk/HaveYourSay
Five lucky contributors will each win a pair of three-day passes to the sold-out Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, which this year stars Kaiser Chiefs and the Proclaimers.