Oatridge expertise is being harnessed to help grow new rural businesses across Europe. With partners in six countries, the College is creating the learning material for an online programme to inspire would-be entrepreneurs with eco-friendly ideas for exploiting the natural and cultural heritage, traditions, landscapes and wildlife of their own areas.
It has meant working with organisations in Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuanian, Turkey and Spain where the project managers, the Lawton language school, are located. The computer-based course is expected to be piloted following a meeting of the partners in Tarsus, Turkey, in October.
The development of the HENGE (Heritage and Natural resources for Green Entrepreneurship) programme is being supported by the European Commission’s Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation project.
HENGE is designed to adapt and transfer best practice in rural development from Western Europe – predominantly the UK and Spain – to Eastern EU countries and Turkey, to provide solutions to de-skilling and unemployment in rural areas, while fostering environmentally friendly practices. The programme will however, be made available and relevant to Scottish communities.
Two meetings, the most recent in Scotland, have heard the views of focus groups and stakeholders in each of the partner states and according to Niall Evans, the Oatridge-based project co-ordinator, “There is a demonstrable desire” for a programme which can deliver the type of online training which is planned.
Mr. Evans, who is the Countryside Management Team Leader at Oatridge, says: “What we want to do with the programme is encourage people to look at what is around them, at the local heritage resources, landscapes, wildlife, traditions, cuisine, buildings and practices, like song and dance for example, and identify business opportunities, which could lead to self-employment and ideally, jobs for more people and benefits for rural communities.” It is particularly targeted at young people, older people and the disadvantaged.
The HENGE project is the second major European-funded project undertaken by Evans and his team in recent years. They drew up the EU-wide academic framework for three courses on “Activity Tourism” designed to offer a broad introduction to careers in the industry, boost the skills of new recruits and improve the visitor experience.
The first Scottish students have just completed a National Progression Award in Activity Tourism course at Oatridge. Among them is 18 year -olds Calum Boyle from Armadale who hopes to become an outdoor activity instructor and Katarzyna Welna from Bathgate (Pictured) who loves exploring new places and jumped at the chance of learning about tourism, when her teacher at St Margaret’s Academy told her about the Oatridge course. Both intend to move on to a National Certificate course in Activity Tourism when it begins at Oatridge in September.