Principal tells councillors about tertiary education's crucial role in developing economy

Highland councillors have heard from UHI Inverness Principal, Professor Chris O’Neil, about the crucial role tertiary education plays in supporting the economic development of the region.

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Professor Chris O Neil: collective role in ensuring the Highlands is a bright and developing economic and cultural centre.

Professor O’Neil and Alison Wilson, the Director of Economic Development and Advancement at UHI, were invited to the council chamber at Highland Council’s headquarters to address the members of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee.

During their presentation ‘Tertiary offer for economic development’, they told committee members that a move to more work-based learning, vital industry partnerships and curriculum innovations would ensure that UHI Inverness and fellow UHI partners were equipped to meet the skills and knowledge demands of an advancing regional economy. Professor O’Neil explained that UHI Inverness engages with more than 500 employers and industry bodies, resulting in a significant rise in the number of Graduate Apprentices and Modern Apprentices trained at its campuses to more than 1000. He also provided examples of innovative new courses developed in collaboration with industry experts to meet the region's skills demands in both Further and Higher Education. Partnerships have also resulted in new scholarships and funds to attract students and create talented employees of the future.

Speaking after the meeting, Professor O’Neil said: “We were really pleased to have such high-level discussions with our partners, Highland Council. We discussed a number of challenges, including how we retain young people and attract new talent and the role that we can collectively play in making sure that the Highlands is a bright and developing economic and cultural centre within Scotland. “I was asked about our commitment to the construction and engineering industries, and I assured the committee that we are responding to industry needs, developing alternative and often quite radical approaches to our delivery, including our apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship training. “We are very much demand led and flexible in the way that we are working with partners, including the council, to ensure that our course offerings are delivered in a way that the apprentice, the student or the employer needs. “There was also agreement in the chamber that we are committed to ensuring the area we serve is an enriching place culturally, as well as an economic centre. We will be entering into further discussions with the council, and I have invited some council colleagues to tour our campuses to find out about all the apprenticeships and courses we offer.” mChair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Ken Gowans, said: “It was very informative to have Professor O’Neil and his colleague Alison Wilson give such a comprehensive overview. This underlines UHI as one of our partners working to ensure the future economic development and sustainability of the Highlands and we look forward to closer working.”