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Rural Routes: Alternative Qualifications to Engage Isolated Youth

Lochview Rural Training's aim is to promote, organise and deliver rural learning, training and career opportunities.


Lochview Rural Training (LRT) was established and registered as a SCIO in 2021. LRT's aim is to promote, organise and deliver rural learning, training and career opportunities, to improve awareness, knowledge and access to the rural landscape and to promote an understanding of the value of rural life for social wellbeing for all. The organisation is based at a working croft at Shinness near Lairg with access to around 2.5 hectares of land and a classroom to support youth development.


In 2023, the Essentia Foundation awarded the group a grant to deliver practical courses for 12 young people aged 11-25 to gain recognised certifications based around the development of personal, social and employability skills, accredited by ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network). According to the Learning and Work institute, residents in parts of the Highlands and Islands are more likely to be underemployed than other parts of Scotland, and there are fewer high paid jobs in these areas. This project aimed to reverse this trend and create positive pathways for rural youth before they enter the labour market.

The ASDAN certifications available included;

  • Employability Skills Development
  • Lifeskills Challenge
  • My Independence: 4 courses around Aspirations
  • Personal Development Programmes
  • Short Courses (in particular land-based sector vocational taster, animal care short course and gardening short course)


I have seen my daughter blossom, excited for croft days and planning her own future to become a crofter!

Initially, few youths enrolled, but completing certificate awardees sparked inquiries and uptake. 

Over 12 months, four young people achieved animal care awards and ten earned land-based industry awards. Nine more youths are currently working towards personal development and other courses. 

Now in year two of a two-year Highland Council contract targeting wider ages, Lochview is projected to certify 30+ youths by end of 2024. 

Lochview Rural Training's ASDAN courses offered rural youth alternative pathways to qualifications and skills development. The customisable, portfolio-based courses suited less academic learning styles. Youth could independently study topics matching their interests and career ambitions like animal care or land-based sectors. 

Attending the practical learning sessions facilitated social connections and friendships for isolated rural youth through groups like Young Crofters and ensured that in the rural north of Scotland young people are given a fair and equal chance to pursue their career goals.