An independent report has found that an outreach programme from the University of the Highlands and Islands has helped young people across the Highlands gain better access to vital education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The university's STEM project, which has received more than £500,000 from renewable energy developer SSE Renewables, was recently evaluated by the specialist economic development and regeneration consultancy, Ekosgen. 

Ekosgen found that the outreach approach adopted by the university has helped to lower barriers to engagement in STEM education and training and generated more peer-to-peer knowledge. 

Dawne Bloodworth, the University of the Highlands and Islands' STEM development manager said: "Building skills in science, technology, engineering and maths is vital to the future of the Highland economy, particularly as the number of occupations in this field are predicted to grow and as the future of work changes. 

"However, STEM professions often experience skills gaps because the number of students choosing STEM programmes does not meet the demands of the sector.  Students can see science, technology and maths as ‘hard' subjects, so educators have a challenge in inspiring young people to take up STEM subjects. 

"As an institution that provides work-based learning, college and university level education, we've been able to take a holistic approach to promoting STEM which has allowed us to address the whole education pipeline.

"We're pleased that Ekosgen's report has proven the university has achieved effective change; to increase awareness, to influence aspirations and to tackle the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and rurality in STEM professions." 

Lord Jack McConnell; the university's STEM team worked with 75% of Highland schools

Lord Jack McConnell, chair of the SSE Renewables' Highland Sustainable Development Fund panel, welcomed the report's findings and praised the university's approach:  "Our Sustainable Development Fund has supported the university's outreach programme for six years. This partnership has enabled them to develop outreach activities across the Highlands, whilst building teacher confidence when delivering STEM activities. 

"It is fantastic to support a project aligned with the fund's key theme of creating opportunities for education and employment through developing skills.

"With around 75% of Highland Council schools participating in the STEM project and more than 600 teachers and an estimated 16,000 pupils taking part, we are delighted that the evaluation has shown what a significant impact the work has had in the region.  We are hopeful that the legacy from the project will continue for many years to come."
Councillor John Finlayson, Chair of The Highland Council’s Education Committee said: “The STEM outreach project was a huge success in Highland. The in-depth engagement with schools that has taken place was I know well received by teachers and pupils alike and I believe it has helped to build STEM capacity and confidence amongst students and teachers across all areas of Highland. I am sure everyone is really appreciative of the funding from the SSE Renewables’ Highland Sustainable Development Fund which has supported this great work.” 

Ekosgen's report found that the University of the Highlands and Islands' mode of delivering the STEM programme was well-suited to the region, particularly among rural and remote schools, and that it was able to continue (in a somewhat reduced capacity) throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

The New Year offers a chance for a big change, with Lews Castle College UHI offering a host of courses that open doors for school-leavers, work-returners or simply those ready for a new challenge.

Study options from night-classes to degree courses are detailed now online as LCC-UHI lays out courses from the creative to the practical, and from deep-dive research to stimulating new topics.

The start of a new term in January means the beginning of a new block of study, with students like Heather Randle keen to explain how support and structured learning helped her plot a path towards a new career.

Heather began to study for an HNC in Health Social and Childcare Studies but was unsure as to the direction her career might take her. She was also concerned whether she had the skills or the daily routine that would allow her to study effectively – all concerns answered by what was on offer.

She said: “This course offered insight into a variety of roles within the care sector. It was whilst doing the courses that my interests began to veer more towards working with children. The teaching and support I received throughout my studies was exceptional and I cannot praise the lecturers enough.

“As an adult returner I was very nervous. I had three dependent children and no experience of computing whatsoever. I was never sure that I was going to be able to complete even the first year of study, but the lecturers did everything they could to support me both academically and personally. They were understanding of my individual circumstances and were flexible where possible to suit my needs. 

“My HNC gave me the qualification essential to my current job and enabled me to gain experience in childcare whilst doing my degree, as it gave me the qualification needed to register with the SSSC.

“The degree, although not necessary for my current job, has been a means of expanding my understanding of child development and the needs of children.

“It has definitely given me greater confidence in my ability to fulfil my role and meet the needs of the children in my care, while working in partnership with their parents. It also means that there are other options for me should I wish to change my career at any point in the future.”

Experiences like Heather’s can be shared through a variety of continuing professional development (CPD) study options, including introductory modules that help students explore areas they think might interest them further.

For example, Introduction to a Career in Social Care ( is made up of five units that look at the sector in general, the essential skills for working within it, personal qualities, professional qualifications and sector regulation.

Exploring a career is just one element of what is offered from January onwards, with chances to expand or begin acquiring skills in the maritime sector, engineering and construction or in business, admin and IT.

For other students, the priority may be knowledge development to fulfil an interest or to support an existing role in the community but, whether you are a January school-leaver or a mature student wishing to build your skills portfolio, there is something for you at Lews Castle College UHI.

The full list of courses available from January is listed here together with all the contact details and advice needed to find out more.


A new training restaurant and cookery courses are the flagship developments of a wider educational outreach programme by Lews Castle College UHI.

With January 2022 just days away, the college was unveiling a huge range of evening classes and flexible courses to support the local community.

Raising the curtain on what is on offer at the campus is a major new development and investment in the college’s long-standing reputation for culinary excellence.

The initiative - part of a long-term development project at Lews Castle College - follows months of working closely with Cala Hotels to address the growing needs of the local hospitality sector.

The result of this collaboration is a raft of training opportunities kicking off in January. These are aimed at people from all walks of life, be they employed within hospitality, hoping to gain employment in the sector in future, or wishing to up their skills in the kitchen at home.

“We are aware of the need to support local business, and in doing so the wider islands’ economy, by developing training opportunities for young people seeking to make a career in professional cookery,” says Head of Department, Michael Smith.

“Our NPA and NC courses have also attracted numerous adult returners, too, seeking to develop their skills in the professional cookery area to access a wide range of job opportunities locally.”

He continues: “A training restaurant is our planned next step to extend the range of new hospitality courses we can offer. This too will seek to train up students for future and existing employment opportunities in local businesses and so be a means to support the wider islands’ economy.”

The only thing that isn’t quite ready is the restaurant’s name. But a social media campaign is now underway to garner suggestions from the public.

The college kicked off the naming campaign on December 15 with a live Christmas cook along with Development Chef James Mackenzie. If you missed the live stream, a recording of the event is still available on the Lews Castle College Facebook page.

The yummy cook along was a taster for anyone interested in perfecting their skills in the kitchen. 

Led by James, formerly Chef and owner of the acclaimed Digby Chicks on Stornoway’s Bank Street, the live event was an ideal introduction to the evening cooking course he will be running shortly. 

The course is a rare opportunity to work with an expert chef and develop skills in the art of making desserts, baking, and pastries.

The evening class will cover the full spectrum of sweet-making, from basic pastry work to more elaborate desserts. The course will also include presentation tips and the use of seasonal ingredients in a wide range of contemporary and classic recipes.

The evening class is a companion course to Lews Castle College’s other highly-rated Food and Drink courses, such as their National Progression Award “Intro to Professional Cookery” and their National Certificate-accredited “Professional Cookery” course.

However, if cooking is not your thing, there is a huge range of other evening classes and flexible courses to choose from, all of which start in January.

So if you wish to get your 2022 off to a fresh start, check out the available courses and get in touch with the college for further information.

 To learn more about the college’s certificated cooking courses, go to:

To find out more about evening classes and flexible courses, go to: