The growth of a service centre in the north of Scotland, and the quality of its staff, has been praised by the Consul General of Japan during a visit to the Highlands.
Mr Hajime Kitaoka said the workforce at the service desk, run by Japanese IT giant Fujitsu at Alness in Easter Ross, has been instrumental in winning inward investment to the rapidly expanding centre.
Mr Kitaoka asked for an opportunity to meet the workers after reading of the service desk’s success in attracting new business and its plans for further expansion.
He spoke with several staff during a tour of the base with Jim Brophy, Fujitsu’s Client Director in Scotland, and Catriona MacDonald, Service Director responsible for the Alness desk.
Mr Kitaoka said: “I am very proud that a Japanese company is being so successful in Scotland and helping the economy of the Highlands by developing this service centre which is expected to grow even further this year.
“Fujitsu have been very impressed with the quality of the staff they have attracted to the Alness centre so I was delighted to meet them and personally thank them for their efforts.”
Last year Fujitsu transferred the service centre to larger premises at Fyrish House, owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which has provided grant funding support towards the capital expenditure and staff training at the base.
It currently accommodates 25 staff servicing Fujitsu’s £66 million contract with The Highland Council as well as 12 staff recruited in June to handle enquiries for other clients.
Fujitsu expects to double the workforce in the coming year with a commitment to bringing other local authority client jobs from around the UK to the service desk.
It further underlines the importance of the Ross-shire base as a key hub in Fujitsu’s strategic plan to expand its presence in Scotland.
Jim Brophy said: “We were honoured to welcome Mr Kitaoka to the Alness service desk and show him first hand the impressive work being done by our staff.
“The quality of the workforce gives us confidence to attract new jobs and opportunities to the Highlands as part of an ongoing drive to enhance our business in Scotland. Mr Kitaoka’s visit is a further endorsement of the work we are doing here.”
Susan Addison, Senior Development Manager at HIE, said: “Fujitsu’s decision to expand its services in the Highlands and Islands is excellent news. HIE is supporting the company with grant funding to help facilitate this expansion, ensuring the businesses realises its growth aspirations in our region.
“In choosing to develop a shared services desk at Fyrish House, Alness, Fujitsu is recognising the excellent reputation and performance of the local workforce. We are looking forward to developing a productive relationship with the company as this project evolves.”
Fujitsu already employs around 100 staff in Inverness and further expansion at Alness could make the company one of the biggest private sector employers in the Highlands.
Fujitsu also recently launched a High Performance Computing (HPC) pilot that will be implemented with the support of The Highland Council and Energy North and will link the Highlands with computer clusters in other parts of the UK, as well as in Europe, China, Japan and the US.
The combined power will mean that work that normally takes days, or even months, can be completed in hours or minutes, allowing connected firms to improve innovation and productivity. A pilot programme is already underway to evaluate the HPC capability with the Highlands
Fujitsu, which is funding the pilot, says it has been inspired by the council’s proposals for a Highland Science Skills Academy, which it is also involved in, and could bring high quality IT and technology jobs to the north of Scotland. It predicts the super-fast computing could revolutionise research and development operations in the area.