Opportunity, quality of life and strong community links have been cited as some of the positive reason young people are choosing to stay in the Highlands and Islands.
This is according to a new report on the recent Young people and the Highlands and Islands: Attitudes and aspirations study commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
More than half of those who took part in the survey said they believe the region is a better place to live now than it was five years ago. A similar number think it will be better still in the next five years.
The report shows that 62% of young people feel those who stay in the Highlands and Islands after formal education do so for positive reasons and consider them lucky to be able to do so. Opportunity, quality of life and strong community links are strong motivating factors behind people’s reasons for staying.
The study was carried out against a backdrop of continued concerns over out-migration of young people from the region. It is one of a number of studies commissioned by HIE this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the organisation’s predecessor, Highlands and Islands Development Board.
It explored the views of young people aged 15 to 30 on educational and employment opportunities, housing, transport, digital and mobile connectivity, leisure, culture and community life. It also looked at their aspirations for the future.
A total of 4,409 people from within and outwith the region shared their views on the Highlands and Islands as a place to live, work and study. Around 43% said they were committed to staying in the region long term, and almost 50% of respondents from elsewhere said they were interested in living in the Highlands and Islands.
Clear links were evident between community participation and sense of community spirit. Seventy eight per cent expressed pride in being associated with their community and 71% participate in their community.
Learning in the Highlands and Islands proved appealing to many young people. Fifty six per cent said the region has a good educational offering and 57% said they would be happy to attend college or university in the region. Graduate placements also invoked a positive response with a majority agreeing they would improve their chances of securing work.
High quality jobs, opportunities for career progression, good access to housing, good access to further and higher education and affordable transport links were the top five factors that young people feel would make the region more appealing.
Carroll Buxton, HIE director for regional development, said: “This report is very encouraging as it shows the Highlands and Islands is increasingly well placed to counter out-migration and attract and retain more young people in the long term. To do this we need to continue to create more opportunities in both education and employment. We are working with universities to expand the provision of undergraduate courses linked to regional career opportunities in growth sectors such as life sciences, creative industries, energy and food and drink. We are supporting high growth businesses and social enterprises to invest in young people, including participation in our ScotGrad placement programme. We are also promoting collaboration between universities and businesses to create more opportunities for young people in science, technology, engineering and maths.
“Developing infrastructure, transport links and access to digital technology is underpinning all of these initiatives and helping to make the region a more attractive option for young people to live, study and work.
“We would like to thank all those who took the time to share their thoughts in the survey and we will use the findings of the study to inform how we focus our efforts as we move forward.”