EDUCATION minister Michael Russell visited Bute this week to present certificates to the five island students who have recently completed an SVQ level 2 award in environmental conservation with the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme.
Jamie Sykes-Sullivan, Innes Wands, Ross Junner, Raymond Lench and Steven McNeil received their awards from Mr Russell at a ceremony at Rothesay Pavilion on Monday.
Also present were the six locals recently taken on as agricultural apprentices at farms around the island under the auspices of Discover Bute, Skills Development Scotland and Oatridge College.
The six new apprentices, Aaron Marchant, Stuart Ogilvie, Marcus Allen, Sam Meiklem, Jordan Junner and Lee McLean, have just completed two week trials with farmers Alan Kennedy, Alex and Daniel Nairn, James McAlister, Duncan McAlister, Tom McMillan and Duncan Lyon respectively.
Mr Russell said: “The last time I presented certificates to apprentices, I was in Beijing in October. I say that not to illustrate how the Scottish Government is spending your money, but to highlight that the qualifications you are getting are internationally recognised, and are worked for worldwide.
“When you realise there are people in every part of the globe who want these qualifications and are prepared to work towards them, it should make you pause for thought.
“One thing we have learned from previous financial difficulties is that people who don’t get the chance of an education during a recession retain that disadvantage for all their working life.
“Our budget included money for record numbers of apprentices and bursaries, and I insisted that we kept the number of college and university places as they were. For as long as I am in office I’m determined to keep those numbers up and to make sure people get the chance to learn.”
Discover Bute project co-ordinator Bridget Paterson said £150-160,000 of the scheme’s total £2.2 million budget had been set aside for accredited training specifically for young people.
She also used her speech of welcome to thank the project’s funders, chief among them the Heritage Lottery Fund, along with Argyll Training, project deputy managers Billy Shields and Angus Hannah, Oatridge and local careers officer Shirley McFarlane, as well as the six farmers who have taken on the new agricultural apprentices.