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SIC could take on graduates

Lerwick Town Hall.

SHETLAND Islands Council is looking into taking on graduates again to support staff working on making the local authority run more efficiently.

A graduate placement scheme was stopped back in 2012 in an attempt to cut costs.

But director of corporate services Christine Ferguson told a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday that the local authority is exploring whether it could recruit graduates for its ongoing business transformation programme.

The programme covers a number of areas, such as broadband and connectivity, reviewing its accommodation portfolio, sharing services and improving the council’s digital presence.

“The council has had a graduate placement scheme in the past, so what we’ve been looking at is whether or not we could re-introduce something similar,” Ferguson said after the meeting.

“This would be very much on our transformation projects, so that they could be allocated to a project, do a lot of the research and background work that needs to be done, and help us prepare options and proposals for change.

“I think it would be a really good opportunity and would suit graduates very well, so we’re beginning to work on this and will hopefully bring forward some proposals in the near future.”

North mainland councillor Alastair Cooper told the meeting that “we made a big mistake when we stopped taking on graduates”.

The scheme, which was launched in 2001, was praised for allowing university students to return to Shetland, or attracting new workers to the isles.

South mainland member George Smith echoed Cooper’s concerns, stating that himself and former councillor Jonathan Wills fought for the graduate placement scheme to be kept on during the previous council.

He suggested that the longer-term value of having graduates in place in Shetland may have been greater than the money saved.

Tuesday’s meeting heard concerns over Shetland’s ability to secure and retain staff, although some members pointed to national frameworks and complex paperwork holding up recruitment.

“The council is a good place to work, but we are constrained by legal issues and qualifications issues,” leader Steven Coutts said.
Councillors, meanwhile, were told that the value of the council’s investments had risen to £372 million by the end of July.

That represented an increase of around £8 million in the space of a month, although councillors were reminded that the performance of investments can dip over time.