A survey into the attitudes and perceptions of young people in the Outer Hebrides highlights several interesting findings including very strong levels of attachment to their local area.
Highlights of the research commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) revealed nearly four in ten of the 457 young people surveyed said they want to live in their local area in five years’ time, rising to 48 per cent at the age of 35.
The desire to live locally is particularly high in those from Uist and Barra – even in those seeking to initially leave to access higher education. Two in every three want to live there at 35 years of age.
The report set out to identify the reasons why 15-30 year olds leave the area and the data will be used to develop policies that will help counteract out-migration of young people. It covered a wide spectrum of subjects from why they stay and leave to what their views on education, employment, housing, transport, community and digital connectivity are. Perceptions of the arts, culture and leisure offering as well as future aspirations were also sought.
The survey says 85 per cent of young people in the Outer Hebrides are proud to be associated with their community – the third highest of those responding in the Highlands and Islands behind those in Orkney and Shetland. Young people also feel safe, it is rated a good place to raise a family and two thirds see the Outer Hebrides as a good place to live as a young person.
In common with other parts of the Highlands and Islands, availability of high quality jobs is seen as the most important factor in making the wider region an attractive place to live, work and study. This was particularly important for those from Uist and Barra. Housing was seen as the second most important factor which was higher than the regional ranking and digital connectivity was also more important than average to young people in the Outer Hebrides.
Those surveyed on Lewis and Harris rated bus and ferry travel availability more positively than the regional average and timetabling of public transport was also relatively well regarded.
Other positive indicators revealed more than half of those from Lewis and Harris perceive apprenticeship availability as good. Young people from the Outer Hebrides as a whole also value employers who offer a good work-life balance and are committed to staff development/training, strong leadership and career progression.
Rachel Mackenzie, HIE area manager in the Outer Hebrides, said: “There is clearly a strong aspiration in young people in the Outer Hebrides to live locally but there are also barriers to living, learning and working here. Next generation, superfast digital access has the potential to make a dramatic impact on this and it will reach at least 70 per cent of premises on the Outer Hebrides over the next 12-18 months.
“New developments such as the £10million port of entry development in Lochboisdale, the further expansion of BASF in Breasclete, more land coming into community ownership, collectively will add further to the attractiveness of the Outer Hebrides to young people.”
A full copy of the Young people in Outer Hebrides: Attitudes and aspirations report is available on the HIE website at http://bit.ly/1PeA8fj