Escape to the country with Oatridge College

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OATRIDGE College in West Lothian is recruiting a pathfinder team for a two-year campaign to lead the area’s townspeople on a great escape to the country.

Adrian Kitchen, the college’s director of business and curriculum development, said: “There is something of an urban/rural divide in West Lothian. The countryside is beautiful, but it is also important to the economic wellbeing of the region.

‘‘We need to promote a greater respect for and understanding of what goes on there and raise awareness of the opportunities and employment it provides.”

The “Rural Connect” project is being funded by Oatridge, West Lothian LEADER and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is hoped that over the two years at least 2500 people will be inspired to get out and simply enjoy the countryside around them; that 1500 will actively seek to learn more about local landbased industries and as many as 600 will sign up at the college to learn a rural skill.

Oatridge is currently assessing applications for three of the four jobs which are being created to take the project forward. It is hoped to have a co-ordinator and three project workers in place within a month to begin the task of engaging with local schools, community groups and 
voluntary organisations. Applications are still being sought for a project worker to take charge of website and social media management.

The new project team’s first remit will be to research what the area has to offer and enlist the support of local farmers, landowners and landbased businesses. The next phase is to engage with schools and community councils and through them, find out what sort of programmes and events would be of interest to local groups and people. A Rural Connect steering group of stakeholders will be set up to ensure the project fits in with other local initiatives.

Adrian Kitchen added: “Ultimately it will be up to the project team, the steering group and local people to decide exactly what will happen during the activity phase. We can provide the expertise and the on-campus resources for training and learning, but we could also be talking about visits to farms, activity 
tourism venues and other landbased industries, and to parts of West Lothian of special environmental interest.

“Our main objectives however are to inspire an interest in young people, especially those living in our urban communities and to think about careers in the landbased industries.”