The £14.3 million North East Economic Recovery and Skills Fund (NEERSF) will boost employment prospects for more than 3,000 people across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and accelerate economic growth in the region.
The NEERSF funding, confirmed by the Scottish Government in August, will support young people into work, reskill and up-skill employees, and increase innovation and business growth.
Delivered by a group of regional partners, the NEERSF programme will address economic impacts resulting from Covid-19, the oil and gas downturn and climate emergency. Energy, hospitality and tourism have been disproportionately affected and young people particularly disadvantaged in the jobs market.
School pupils, graduates and those already working will benefit over the next six months. The 29 NEERSF projects focus on entrepreneurship; accelerating business start-up and growth; increasing digital skills; equality and inclusion; and upskilling and reskilling people to enter or remain in work and take advantage of new jobs in sectors including energy transition, health and social care.
The delivery partners are Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Skills Development Scotland, Opportunity North East, Robert Gordon University, University of Aberdeen, Energy Transition Zone Limited, and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.
Minister for Youth Employment and Training, Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government is pleased to be working with partners in the North East to deliver a wide range of projects catered to the area’s people and businesses. We also know that investment in skills is a key part of supporting a just transition to a net zero economy in the region. This funding provides a much-needed boost to the North East and I thank the partners for their continued commitment to making this fund a success.”
Opportunity North East will lead and deliver £6 million of new business growth, innovation and skills programmes to boost employment and economic recovery. The projects include key sector accelerators; an innovation investment fund; a graduate into business programme; leadership and entrepreneurial skills; and hospitality apprenticeships.
Jennifer Craw, Chief Executive of Opportunity North East, said: “NEERSF gives the region additional resources to drive recovery, renewal and diversification. ONE’s private sector leadership and projects will make a difference to people, start-ups and established businesses over the next six months. We will support businesses to grow, innovate and create new jobs in the low-carbon economy across digital tech, food and drink manufacturing, hospitality, life sciences and tourism. The action and investment will improve employment prospects for individuals in work, returning to work and starting their careers.”
Aberdeen City Council is delivering more than £2 million of activity through three distinct projects focusing on inclusion, education and employment. The projects will support pupils to remain engaged in education through alternatives means and progress to employment, provide paid graduate internships and work experience for those furthest removed from the labour market, and ensure that lack of finance is not a barrier to individual participation in the programme.
Councillor M. Tauqeer Malik, Aberdeen City Council’s Convener of the Education Operational Delivery Committee, said: “The pandemic, oil and gas downturn and climate emergency have hit our key sectors hardest, including energy, hospitality and tourism. Aberdeen City Council and partners are delivering this programme to boost employment and economic recovery, including investing in skills, supporting people into work and backing high-growth new businesses. There is also a strong and very welcome focus on supporting school pupils and helping them prepare for their careers. The NEERSF programme complements the broader investment in becoming a leading low-carbon economy that provides high-quality job opportunities.”
ETZ Ltd will provide on-the-job transition training to support people into renewables jobs, upskill oil and gas sector employees, and deliver market development programmes for supply chain businesses targeting offshore wind and low-carbon opportunities.
Andy Rodden, ETZ Ltd Energy Transition Programme Director, said: “ETZ Ltd is delighted to receive a little more than £3 million from this important fund and we have already identified a range of exciting projects that will support the upskilling and retraining of our workforce and the wider local supply chain as part of the energy transition. We must ensure we give individuals the opportunity to gain the relevant training and experience associated with renewable energies and encourage our supply chain to transition to low carbon opportunities. Our allocation of the North East Economic Recovery and Skills Fund will allow us to do precisely that.”
Robert Gordon University is using its £1.7 million of funding to support those most disadvantaged or affected by the impact of energy transition or the pandemic, either individually or because of the sector they work in. The university’s projects include a suite of upskilling short courses in leadership, data and digital, energy transition and entrepreneurship; an enterprise school for recent graduates living in the region; an accelerator programme aimed at early-stage innovators and entrepreneurs; as well as working with Skills Development Scotland and regional partners in health and social care to plan and create a development pathway.
Donella Beaton, Vice-Principal for Economic Development at RGU, commented: “The NEERSF funding is going to allow us to deliver projects where there is real opportunity for growth within the region and where we can significantly add value, including areas such as online courses, help for business start-ups and for new graduates, and development support for health and social care. The fund will also enable RGU to deliver on our long-standing commitment to supporting communities and businesses and stimulating economic development in the region.”
Skills Development Scotland will deliver a Digital Pilot Licence with the aim of upskilling and reskilling individuals so they can take advantage of the opportunities emerging as the region delivers on UK and Scottish energy transition objectives. SDS will also offer an expansion of the Digital Start Fund, targeting a specific cohort for the region to help those on low incomes or with other specified barriers access jobs in the digital sector.
Dr Allison Carrington, Skills Planning Lead for Skills Development Scotland (SDS) said: “SDS is helping to diversify the region’s economy and is supporting the drive to net zero by helping people gain the digital skills needed to access further training or gain jobs in the digital sector. We will also be supporting those currently in work to upskill and reskill into digital roles whilst also gaining an understanding of the challenges and solutions related to climate change.”
The University of Aberdeen will upskill or reskill around 400 people across Aberdeen City and Shire through fee waivers for online short postgraduate courses across a range of disciplines (such as energy transition, leadership and management, nutrition, health and wellbeing, and in-demand skills), plus short access courses in Maths at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher levels and English at Higher level.
Dr John Barrow, Dean for Employability and Entrepreneurship and project lead at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We know from speaking to those who have completed these short courses that they really can help people take their career to the next level, or enable them to take their first steps into a new career or to start their own business. The NEERSF will open these important courses up to many who may not have considered them before, making a positive impact on their own lives and the local economy.”
Aberdeenshire Council will deliver the The Deens Project, a collaboration between schools, CLD and Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust to re- engage young people in the learning process that results in gain in qualifications, achievements and skills for their future work and life. There is an additional focus on the promotion of a growth mindset, improved resilience, ambitious career planning and good management of mental health.
Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Councillor Andy Kille said: “This funding is very welcome and will be used to continue the development of the excellent Deens Project; a collaboration between schools, Community Learning and Development, and Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust to re-engage young people in the learning process that results in qualifications, achievements and skills for their future work and life.”
Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce is running a training and support programme for SMEs to build knowledge and resilience around the climate emergency and net zero. The programme will help businesses understand how they need to adapt to operate in a net zero environment and to the impacts of climate change. It will focus on SMEs that have limited knowledge and resources to address these issues and who have been impacted by Covid-19, with a focus on those in the energy supply chain, construction, manufacturing and third sector.
Russell Borthwick, Chief Executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “SMEs make up the largest percentage of businesses across the region however a recent Chamber survey showed that while 81% of firms believe achieving net zero is extremely or moderately important to their business only 25% have set a target. It's really important to demystify the net zero agenda for SMEs and this training will help companies understand where they can focus their efforts and how they can work with their supply chains.”
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