Teachers and pupils will not be the only beneficiaries of the Scottish Executive's pound;2 billion schools rebuilding programme, Highland Council believes. It could also breathe new life into vocational training and skills development.
The council's own pound;132 million public private partnership scheme to build 11 new schools over the next four years, its second PPP deal, has already opened up new opportunities for apprenticeships.
Bruce Robertson, Highland's director of education, has revealed that agreement has been reached on training with the two largest construction companies in the area, Morrison and Tulloch, which are in partnership as Alpha Schools to complete the project. This aims to ensure that employment opportunities for young people will improve as a result of the schools project.
Mr Robertson commented: "We have agreed that the companies will increase the number of apprenticeships and general training opportunities, right across the Highland area. Both companies have been excellent in their response and, once the schools are built, not only will we have that physical legacy, we will have young people with the skills to go on and earn a great living in what is a booming industry at the moment."
The final numbers have still to be agreed, but may well be into three figures by the end of the four-year project. Mr Robertson said: "We are not talking ones and twos here."
Tulloch Construction already has an academy with about 150 recruits learning the ropes, and the company plans to increase the numbers significantly.
The fact that schools are to be built all over the Highlands is an added bonus because it will bring training opportunities to outlying areas, the council says.
"Those that will benefit particularly are places like Portree where, in the past, there haven't been many opportunities for fairly large-scale apprenticeships or training, and young people have had to leave their home areas to get jobs and training," Mr Robertson said.
"They will now have the opportunity to learn the skills in their home towns and villages, and that must be good for everybody."
Mr Robertson pointed out that the PPP scheme will take up to five years to deliver and that will easily cover the period required for an apprenticeship or a training scheme.
"It will enable them to do most of their training without travelling long distances," he said. "These companies take a very professional approach to their training schemes, and the bad practices associated with the construction industry in the past have gone.
"The youngsters will get the chance to get into trades where they can make a very good living in the future."