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Apprenticeships – fuelling our region’s future workforce

MattTyrerMatt Tyrer, Project Manager for Work-based Learning at the University of the Highlands and Islands, answers common questions about apprenticeships and explains why they are vital in supporting our region’s economy.

‘Apprenticeships are changing’. This has been the tag line used in recent times by Skills Development Scotland, the national skills body for Scotland, in its marketing efforts to raise awareness that apprenticeships today might be quite different to how we remember them from our own personal and, in some cases, slightly out-dated experiences of education and life at the beginning of the career ladder.

Today, there are funded apprenticeships available across a wide range of subject areas and business sectors, open not only to people just starting out their careers, but also to more experienced staff looking to bolster and formalise the skills and experience they have developed ‘on the job’.

So, is getting more involved in apprenticeships something your organisation should be considering?

Why are apprenticeships important?

Apprenticeship programmes are an important part of the Scottish Government’s Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce agenda, helping to ensure that education and training is industry led and fit for purpose, and providing practical solutions to support employers with their workforce planning and business development needs.

For our region in particular, we are facing a disproportionately higher level of aging population in comparison to the rest of Scotland and we continue to struggle to stem the out-migration of young people and talent from our rural communities, which, when combined, reduces the number of working age people available for employers in our region. At the same time, forecasts are showing that our region’s key sectors and industries are going to require a higher number of new staff than will be available, to fill both growth demands and replace workforce leavers (e.g. through retirement or leaving work to care for the family).

Stewart Sloss Lantra image gamekeepingApprenticeships can support us through this challenge by providing the opportunity for employers to attract new talent to their workforce at a relatively early stage in a person’s life and career, raising awareness of the opportunities available locally, without the need to move away. They also enable people already in work to continue to learn, develop, reskill and upskill around their job and other life commitments, supporting the continued development and retention of region’s workforce.

In a world where the nature of work is changing so rapidly, there is an expectation that the workforce will have to continually adapt and flex as technological advances and job demands change and evolve around us. What is really important about apprenticeships is that they ensure that the education and training people receive is grounded in the reality of working life and the needs of the businesses they will be working for. Furthermore, they support the development of a range of skills, sometimes called core-skills or more recently ’meta-skills’, which can be applied across a range of areas and disciplines. These kinds of transferable skills are becoming even more essential.

What do apprenticeships look like today?

In Scotland today there are three main types of apprenticeship covering sectors and job roles including construction, engineering and energy, food and drink, IT and digital, business and administration, healthcare, tourism and hospitality, land-based and maritime.

The most well established is the Modern Apprenticeship programme, which provides opportunities for people in employment to gain accredited, industry recognised qualifications which recognise skills and experience gained in the workplace. There are over 90 different frameworks available across a range of sectors, subject areas and levels of learning.


In more recent times, the Foundation Apprenticeship has become an established part of the school education. These are work-based qualifications which combine the best of academic study with the practical, work-based application of skills together into one qualification. They are at the same level of learning as the Higher and are offered to school pupils in their senior phase (in S5 and S6), usually delivered by colleges or other training providers outside of the school environment.

With Foundation Apprenticeships, employers can provide structured work placement opportunities linked to the completion of an apprentice’s qualification and get involved in other ways such as setting project-based challenges, taking guest speaker slots and hosting visits. Foundation Apprenticeships are a great way for an employer to get a glimpse of their potential future workforce before they’ve even left school. Employers have already been impressed by the capability of our university partnership’s Foundation Apprentices and, in some cases, have been very quick to offer paid employment opportunities when school studies have finished.

Finally, the third and newest apprenticeship within the Scottish family of apprenticeships is the Graduate Apprenticeship. These are work-based degrees – high level and challenging academic programmes, as any degree is, but blended into the student’s employment situation so that workplace time and activity informs learning and assessment, enabling a full-time degree programme to be completed while in work. With more traditional graduate schemes, employers bring in new graduates then invest time in a programme of induction and further training. With Graduate Apprenticeships, the student is embedded in the workplace from day one and, by the time they graduate, will already have up to four years’ experience with an employer, with their academic learning contextualised to your business and broader industry throughout.

What are the benefits to the employer?

At a time when recruitment and retention of our workforces is becoming increasingly challenging and competitive, apprenticeships provide a great solution. They are funded and deliver comprehensive training which is flexible to your needs, helping you to strengthen and upskill your existing staff and future workforce.

craig_duncan029(1)The training is structured and supported by qualified academic staff and assessors, and you are supported every step of the way by your apprenticeship provider.

It is important to understand that while apprenticeships are a great way to fulfil your recruitment and workforce planning needs, they are not about accessing cheap labour. They can be challenging qualifications which require a high level of capability, commitment and motivation from the apprentices, but also effective mentoring and support from the employer. However, when done right, they provide great benefits, including increased productivity and innovation. They are also a fantastic way to invest in young people and your existing staff, and to support your local community in a way that also meets your business need.

What are the benefits to the apprentice?

Foundation Apprentice Ewan RobertsonStudying an apprenticeship provides the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ (with the exception of Foundation Apprenticeships in school, of course) and gain new skills and experience alongside experienced colleagues and experts from your chosen industry or business sector. They are a great first foot in the door to a new business or industry sector, or a way to continue your learning and development while in work.

An apprenticeship provides you with the experience, work and life skills employers are looking for, and sets you up to be a flexible and adaptable team member, ready for today’s fast-paced and changing world of work.

How do apprenticeships work?

For Foundation Apprenticeships, pupils entering the senior phase of school will choose these as part of their options in liaison with their school guidance teachers. They run over one or two years during S5 and S6 and usually include a combination of college-based study and workplace experience, and are studied alongside other school qualifications.

Modern Apprenticeships are employment-based programmes available to anyone aged 16 or over and tend to last between one and four years depending on the specific framework being undertaken. An employer can either identify a suitable member of their existing team or recruit a new apprentice into their workforce.

There are a range of training providers available, who will support the employer to ensure any potential candidate can meet the requirements of the apprenticeship programme before they start.

Teamwork in freight transportation industry with cargo containersThe apprenticeship is a partnership between training provider, employer and apprentice, with everyone having their own responsibilities and contribution to ensure the programme will be a success. However, the training provider will lead both the employer and apprentice through their apprenticeship journey, including using things like inductions, tailored learning plans and regular reviews to help ensure everyone knows what is required and stays on track.

Depending on the apprenticeship, there may be some requirement for the apprentice to attend college or university, particularly in the earlier stages of the programme, however in many cases the apprenticeships are entirely work-based and involve an assessor making regular visits to the workplace to support and assess the apprentice.

Graduate Apprenticeships are similar to Modern Apprenticeship in many respects, except that they are only provided by universities. Due to the high level of academic study required, it is even more essential that the university is involved in the early stages of identifying or recruiting a graduate apprentice, not only to ensure they can manage the programme, but also to identify any previous qualifications or work experience which might enable them to fast-track through the programme.

For example, at the University of the Highlands and Islands we are currently seeking new employer partners for our civil engineering and early learning and childcare programmes, ready for a new programme starting in September.


How can I find out more?

To find out more, visit, the Skills Development Scotland website for apprenticeships, where you can access information about the range of apprenticeship opportunities available across Scotland.

To find out more about the range of apprenticeships across Foundation, Modern and Graduate levels available in your region through the University of the Highlands and Islands, visit or contact your local University of the Highlands and Islands college.

The university’s apprenticeship programmes form part of a portfolio of work-based learning at the university and are managed and supported though the university’s work-based learning hub. For further help or information, please contact the hub at or call 01463 279 436.


Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships have been developed by Skills Development Scotland, in partnership with employers, colleges, universities and Sector Skills Councils, with support from the European Social Fund.

University Mental Health Day 2020 – building resilience

Today is University Mental Health Day, the national day for student mental health run jointly by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisers Network.

As the university’s mental health and counselling manger, I am encouraging students and staff to get involved in the local events which taking place, to help promote awareness and to share information about the support which is available to help students manage their wellbeing. I am hopeful that we can work together to change the often negative narrative around student mental health.

Volunteering imageAcross the university partnership we can tackle stigma together and create a campus culture where talking about mental health is something we can all do. One in four of us will experience mental health problems in our lives so, if you haven’t been directly affected yourself, it is likely that you will know someone who has experienced mental health problems.

The topic of student mental health and wellbeing is one I am very passionate about.  It’s known that students of any age can be at risk of experiencing poorer mental health and wellbeing due to factors relating to academic, social and financial pressures. I feel strongly that mental health is everybody’s responsibility and, as mental health and wellbeing affects every aspect of student life, I want to encourage you to do your best to look after yourselves.


shutterstock_292953377Quite often we hear the term resiliency being banded about, but what is resilience and how can we further develop this it?

Resilience comes from the Latin word meaning to ‘jump back’. It is the ability to return to an original form or position after being bent, compressed or stretched. When applied to humans, it is our capacity to cope with adversity or disappointment and bounce back when we encounter setbacks.

Some factors which may influence our levels of resiliency are:

  • Our developmental experiences in childhood/adolescence
  • External factors such as having positive relationships with others, having a faith or other kind of commitment and engaging with activities
  • Internal factors such as how we choose to interpret events, manage our emotions and regulate our behaviour

Walk1Being resilient doesn’t mean a person won’t experience difficulty or distress, but it helps them cope better when problems occur. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered problems or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience may involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait which people either have or do not have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions which can be learned and developed in anyone. There are lots of factors which can contribute to our resilience:

  • Having close relationships with family and/or friends
  • Holding a positive view of self and confidence in our own strengths and abilities
  • Developing the ability to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Developing good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Being willing to seeking help from people and/or resources
  • Noticing and appreciating nature – living in a more mindful way
  • Engaging in exercise
  • Seeing yourself as resilient (rather than as a victim)
  • Coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse or drinking alcohol excessively
  • Helping others – such as volunteering or doing a good deed every day
  • Finding positive meaning in your life despite (difficult circumstances or traumatic events)

Increasing resiliency

So, it is possible to increase your levels of resiliency. What are some of the ways we can do this?

  • Keep things in perspective and train yourself to think positively
  • Regard setbacks as challenges and learning opportunities, rather than paralysing disasters
  • Be committed to the activities and people you value
  • Focus on what you can control, rather than worrying about what you can’t

It is also helpful to focus on the positive aspects of yourself. A great way to do this is by keeping a positivity journal. Spend a little bit of time reflecting on:

  • What do I like about myself?
  • What characteristics do I have that are positive?
  • What are some of my achievements?
  • What challenges have I overcome in my life?
  • What skills or talents do I have?
  • What do people say they like about me?
  • How would someone who cares about me describe me?
  • What bad characteristics do I NOT have?


Another way to increase resiliency is to regularly review your stress levels and look at ways to manage this. Engaging in things you enjoy and socialising can be a great way to reduce your stress levels.


Allie Scott, Mental Health and Counselling Manger, University of the Highlands and Islands

For more information on mental health and wellbeing, visit 

Video is everywhere – top tips for video production

Video has become one of the primary methods of communication in our society. Not exclusive to film, TV, music or advertisement, but for everyone and pretty much everything we do, video is a part of it. With services like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, coupled with the fact that almost everyone has a device in their pocket allowing them to communicate with almost anyone, anywhere, at any time, this is more prevalent than ever. I am, of course, talking about mobile phones. Modern day mobile phones are seriously powerful devices that are portable and part of that power comes in its camera technology. This puts video at the fingertips of everyone.

In this article I will be giving some general advice on equipment considerations for video production.


Before we get into the crux of the matter, I would like to give a special mention to planning.filming-4371566_1920 Planning is, in my opinion, the most important part of video production or film making. One might think that the actual film content is paramount, but I would argue otherwise. How are you going to film anything if you don’t know what, where or how you are going to film?

Without an idea of what to expect on a shoot comes a great increase in the possibility for things to go wrong. Often you only have one chance to get what you need so you should be prepared. Create a shot list, have a rough storyboard and write an itinerary to keep yourself on track. Thinking about these things before going out on a shoot will help you greatly and make for a smoother more productive video shoot.


camera-1701049_1920The first thing everyone is thinking is probably, ‘I need a camera’. I would agree, you absolutely need a camera. Which camera though, is possibly the more important question.

My answer, which has always been my answer, is use whatever you have at your disposal. It would be fabulous if we could all get Red Epics or Arri Alexas, proper cinema quality cameras. Unfortunately, those are extremely expensive cameras and not everyone can afford to use these. I take the view that if you want to create then you should, don’t let the fact that you don’t have the best or latest equipment inhibit that. Create if you want to create.

There is one thing that people can use that they probably already have on their persons smartphones-4746601_1920right now: a mobile phone. Mobile phone technology has leapt forward in the last ten years and part of that is advances in camera sensor and lens technology. I believe that the camera in most current mobile phones will produce a better picture than dedicated camcorders would’ve produced ten or even five years ago. So don’t be afraid to use it. Just please film in landscape, there are some cases where portrait is appropriate to film in, but the majority of the time, landscape is king.

Really a camera and a microphone are the only things you need to create video content. The other equipment is secondary, it’s valuable and useful to have, but not necessary. A mobile phone covers both those so, if you have one, you are set to start creating video.

If you would like to step up your game, then there are a few other pieces of equipment you might want to consider investing in.

External microphones

MicFirstly, an external microphone. A mobile phone does have a microphone built in, but it is normally not of the best quality and often the camera won’t be placed right next to the subject, so it will be picking up a lot of other sounds in the vicinity as well as your subject. Getting a microphone that is a bit more directional like a label or clip mic will help with this. A clip mic is exactly that; a microphone that you can clip onto clothing. It brings the microphone closer to the subject speaking and is directional so will be better at picking up just their voice.

For more information of audio considerations, watch this video.


A tripod may also be a good addition to your equipment collection. Holding your camera in your hands comes with its own set of problems, stability being a big one. Even holding the camera close to your body and close to your own centre of gravity will still introduce some camera shake. Putting your phone on a tripod will remove this. You can get fairly low-cost tripods that have phone mount adaptors and which are lightweight.


light-4236089_1920The third and final equipment consideration I will talk about in this article is lighting. This is quite a dense topic, so I won’t go into detail about it. Just know that it is something to consider and you can get good information online about basic video lighting setups, the most common one being the three point lighting setup. This, as the name suggests, uses three lights to light a subject in a flattering manner. It is pretty much the base of most, if not all, lighting setups. Learning that will be a useful skill.

For more information on lighting, watch this video.

For more information on equipment considerations, watch this video.

In summary, all you need is a camera and a microphone to make video. Your mobile phone is more than good enough, but if you want to step up your video production game, then think about investing a little into some equipment to aid your video journey.



Llewelyn Bailey

Web Officer

University of the Highlands and Islands


The University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of courses with links to video production skills, including BSc (Hons) in interactive media and a BA (Hons) in contemporary film making in the Highlands and Islands. To find out more about our courses, visit

Student volunteering week: Why volunteering is good for you and your community!

There are lots of reasons why volunteering is a great thing to do and there are many ways you can become a volunteer! As part of Student Volunteering Week 2020, some of our student have shared their experiences and thoughts on the benefits of volunteering.

Holly Young

MSc archaeological practice at Orkney College UHI

ArchWhat do you do as a volunteer?

My experience of volunteering at the university has been mainly with excavations during the summer as well as some finds processing during the semester. This mostly took place throughout the time I spent doing my undergraduate degree. I got the opportunity to take part in several seasons of volunteering at the Cairns, the Ness of Brodgar and as part of the Yesnaby Art and Archaeology Research Project. Along with these, I got the opportunity to engage with the local community through the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was inspired to volunteer within the archaeology department originally as a way to support my studies and help me develop my skills for a possible career within the profession. However, the more opportunities I got to be involved, it became more of a labour of love and I selfishly began doing it much more for my own enjoyment than any other reason.

What are the benefits to you and your community of volunteering?

The opportunity to gain new skills or develop those which you already possess. Volunteering also helps to integrate you into the community of your university department as well as with the local community at large which was a great help given that I had move so far to be here in 2012 and at 17 years old I found it hard to be confident within my university surrounding. Simply put, it’s a great way to make friends and develop new connections.

What do you gain from it?

It sounds cheesy, but volunteering played a huge role in me finding a community that I felt comfortable in. One which I found myself drawn back to when I had finished my undergraduate degree which is why I ended up moving back to Orkney to do a masters. I also gained a great number of friends as well as a great group of archaeologists with a fantastic range of skills willing to support me and help me grow my skill set.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s a great way to learn new skills and support your studies. It also helps to build your confidence and find people who share similar passions as you.

Stephen Simpson

Pathway to Hospitality at Moray College UHI

Baillie Gifford Caledonian Challenge 2013What do you do as a volunteer?

I’ve volunteered at my local farm for four and a half years. I do a range of farm work varying from taking horses to local agricultural shows to mucking out stables.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I knew I would widen my knowledge and would be doing a good thing by helping others.

What are the benefits to you and your community?

At the end of the day I know I’ve done something good. The benefit to others is that they don’t have to pay wages and make themselves be put in a financially difficult situation.

What do you gain from it?

Experience, knowledge and building my self-confidence.

Why should other students try it?

It helps to widen your knowledge of many different things and builds self-confidence. The main thing is that you’re doing something good to help others!

Susan Dyke

Archaeology at Orkney College UHI

Susan_DykeWhat inspired you to volunteer?

My interest in archaeology inspired me to volunteer with the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College UHI.

What do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteered for around 10 months before my archaeology studies began and started off helping with post-excavation ‘finds processing’. The work involved carefully cleaning finds from previous years’ excavations, then packing them for storage or further analysis. This gave me invaluable experience learning to identify finds and I also learned something of the sites they came from. When I came to help excavate my first site in Orkney, I was able to recognise finds as we unearthed them, knew something of how to treat them and a little of what their discovery revealed about the site. That first dig was also undertaken as a volunteer!

Further volunteering experiences included another excavation – the Viking/ Norse/ Medieval Skaill Farm site on the island of Rousay – and field walking, measured survey, archive research, cataloguing of finds and participation in workshops with the Archaeology Institute.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

My volunteer experience has helped deepen and broaden my archaeological knowledge and skills and has hugely benefitted my studies, so much so that I’ve been able to secure a bursary to allow me to undertake project work developing my palynology experience.

The benefits of volunteering have not only been academic, I’ve volunteered alongside many interesting people of all ages from across the Orkney community, we’ve traded experiences and stories, learned much from each other and had a lot of fun.

One of my favourite excavation memories of 2018 was swimming in my lunch hour at both The Cairns and Skaill Farm and being joined by seals both times!

Why should other students try it?

There are so many varied opportunities supported by enthusiastic and encouraging staff – it makes a great student experience at the University of the Highlands and Islands even better!

Kath Darley

BA (Hons) politics and criminology at Moray College UHI

Kath_DarleyWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I’m a student ambassador and volunteer in helping with things like induction days and S3 taster days.

Outside of college, I volunteer as a leader in a children’s holiday club with my church every summer and help out with church events. I’m also the secretary of my Lawn Bowls Club.

What inspired you to volunteer?

One of my lecturers recommended being a student ambassador and, as someone with supported learning needs, it seemed like an opportunity to grow in confidence, acquire and apply new skills and give something back to the college and staff who have supported me so well.

I volunteer at my church as it’s an important aspect of my faith and something I enjoy doing.

I’m inspired to volunteer at my Lawn Bowls Club as this enables me to contribute to a community I am part of and supports the running of the club.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering gives me growing confidence and experience, plus skills that I can use in my CV when I go job hunting that will hopefully make me stand out more and improve my chances of success.

The things I do benefit the community as they are very much ‘service’ roles and often mean the workload is shared and the community have confidence that their needs will be met and in a professional and compassionate manner.

What do you gain from it?

Personal development and growth. My roles provide me with an opportunity to push myself and when I succeed my confidence is boosted. When things don’t go quite so well, I am given the opportunity to reflect and consider how to improve in future.

Why should other students try volunteering?

Volunteering is an opportunity to increase personal development, use existing skills and develop new ones. It can enable you to be a part of a community, gain new friends, create contacts and networks. I get a great sense of achievement from it, so others might too. And, of course, it can be added to your CV, hopefully making you stand out from the crowd when it comes to job seeking!

Bob Carchrie

BA (Hons) archaeology at Perth College UHI

Bob_DavidsonWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I mainly work on archaeology digs with some other heritage associated work such as helping run events and workshops.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I volunteered on a local community archaeology dig on a hillfort near where I live. I saw a poster looking for volunteers and applied, I’ve had a lifelong interest in archaeology and had just left a long-term career and was looking for a change.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

It was great for both mental and physical health. I met lots of new people and made a positive contribution to my local community which has continued beyond the end of the original project.

What do you gain from it?

I found a new vocation and, with the experience I gained, was accepted to do a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. It had a huge impact on my wellbeing and I finally found my tribe!

Should other students try it too?

Absolutely, particularly in archaeology as it’s vital to get out there and get involved in digs to boost your skill set, meet new people and build a network.

Jacqueline Johnstone

BSc (Hons) environmental science at the North Highland College UHI

Jacqueline_JohnstoneWhat did you do as a volunteer?

I assisted a hydro chemist in water analysis over the summer. I worked on peatland restoration as well as commercial work.

I have been helping with a paper on nutrient release from peatland undergoing restoration, which was formerly afforested with pine and spruce trees.

I have also taken part in the university’s Future Me programme where I was assigned a mentor in the industry. I was invited to Cairngorm National Park to see the careers available in my field.

What inspired you to volunteer?

The flow country is a site of global significance currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status. Peatlands are a carbon store and hold 30% of the soil carbon in the world. This contributes to conserving carbon below the ground aiding in slowing down climate change.

It is also beneficial to network and gain experience in your field. The people you meet help you decide what path to follow in your chosen career.

What did you gain from volunteering?

Peatlands are home to many different organisms and species which need to be preserved for future generations. They minimise flood risk and can help mitigate climate change. I feel it is my responsibility as a student of environmental science to contribute towards the preservation of our environment.

I have gained invaluable experience in peatland science and feel I have contributed to helping preserve my surroundings.

Future Me helps with deciding what area you would like to follow in your career. Your mentor can help with any questions you have on your chosen degree or course, expanding your knowledge.

Why should other students try volunteering?

If you help a person in your field of work, you gain experience for your CV and your future career. That person can guide you and introduce you to others in your career field. Your knowledge of that field will increase making a better understanding of the subject.

Spencer Manclark

SCQF level 5 built environment at Moray College UHI

GuitarWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteer with the army welfare service, mainly as a guitar tutor for children between the ages of 7 and 12, but I’m also on call in case there are staff shortages with any other youth groups.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I wanted to teach young people guitar as it’s a skill that not many people want to achieve and I wanted to bring back that skill in the community.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

I not only have something to do, but it also gives other people a chance to meet new people and socialise with people of different backgrounds. As I am with the army welfare service, we are helping children and young people who may be anxious or depressed with a parent or someone they love going away with the army. We help the children interact with different activities and socialise with different people and try and help them through the process.

What do you gain from it?

I gain a very big sense of achievement as I am helping children and young people do something that they might end up wanting to carry on with.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s really fulfilling to do something productive with your time. Rather than sit at home playing Xbox, you could be out shaping kids with a skill you’ve got or helping people who are at risk and that is such a great feeling to have.

Looking to volunteer?

The university’s Career Centre can help you prepare, get involved and find opportunities. Check out the Job Shop or book an appointment to chat with us, simply log in to Future Me using your normal student username and password.

Student Volunteering Week 2020 takes place from Monday 10 to Sunday 16 February. The week encourages and celebrates student volunteering across UK colleges and universities. For more information on student volunteering, visit  

e-bike smiles – exploring how e-bikes may support people affected by cancer

Across the world the incidence of cancer continues to rise and will affect the lives of one in three people. The good news is that an increasing number of people are surviving their cancer in the UK. In 2019, this equated to 2.6 million people. Unfortunately for many this means that after receiving cancer treatments they are left with health problems such as extreme tiredness, mental health issues, lack of confidence and problems with mobility to name but a few.

The number of people surviving cancer is an excellent reflection on how treatable cancers have become. However, developing effective interventions and self-management programmes to support people to improve their health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatments is a priority within cancer care.

CaptureThe shifting paradigm within cancer care in the 21st century is one that is now striving to understand and meet the needs of an increasing population of people surviving their cancer diagnosis, but whose lives are affected by immediate and late complications of anti-cancer therapies. Effective solutions are required to help enable people with cancer to adopt self-management behaviour habits which enhance their recovery. A shift in approach to care which focuses on recovery, health and wellbeing is a priority.

I am really interested in how we integrate everyday recreational activities into cancer care from diagnosis. There has been an emphasis on effective ways to increase the physical activities of people affected by cancer which is commendable and improves symptom burden, wellbeing and may in fact reduce recurrence in some cancers.

I love my job. My favourite part is listening to the stories of people wiStockphoto Imagesho have been affected by cancer. It is a real privilege. It was listening to stories that inspired my PhD. After having had bone marrow transplants, people who were really unwell, would tell me of how their family or friends would drive them to their favourite places – be that a beach, the woods, a car park with a view. Even if they were too weak to get out, they could just look at nature, wind down the window and feel the wind on their face. They felt that it helped them put their experiences into perspective and helped them mentally to undertake the work required to get well again.

To this end then, I became interested in how nature is or could be used in health care to improve peoples’ health and wellbeing.

Frumkin (2013) advocates that “nature interactions are widely available and inexpensive; they don’t need to be prescribed or dispensed by highly trained professionals; they are easily personalized according to age, ability, and cultural preference; they inflict few adverse effects; and they offer numerous co-benefits -claims, by the way, that few medical treatments can make. This field deserves far more research attention than it has had.”

Therefore, what do we have in abundance in Highlands?

Natural environments – from sweeping mountains, turbulent seas, golden beaches, meandering rivers to majestic woodlands.

Loch Morlich in the Cairngorm National Park, Scotland

What if there are numerous psychological, physical and physiological benefits to people affected by cancer journeying through our landscapes? Could a nature-based intervention be woven through clinical care which improves people’s adjustment through cancer and their health?

We know that nature appears to provide people affected with cancer with familiar and contemplative spaces where they can develop new emerging perspectives, caring connections (with themselves and others) and enabling spaces to find their way through clinical and personal significances of their cancer. After many conversations with people affected by cancer in my clinical work, the use of electrically assisted bikes seemed to be increasingly popular for helping people keep active, yes, but also to have micro-adventures on.

Inverness College Campus building photoshoot, November 2015Cycling is one form of mobility which promotes exercise and access to the outdoors and could support improved health and wellbeing. E-bikes offer the opportunity to people who may not be regular cyclists or who have health issues to undertake moderate levels of physical activity to improve their health and wellbeing.

Social media is full of stories of people who may or may not have been active cyclists who have transitioned to an electrically assisted bike which has enabled them to increase their confidence, maintain their social circles, keep moving, travel further and, most importantly, have fun. A new term seems to have been coined: “e-bike smiles!”

Electrically assisted bikes look just like regular bikes but have the benefit of a motor which can be used when the rider is tired or going up steeper terrain – but you have to keep turning the pedals! The top speed is legally capped at 22km per hour so it’s not a motorbike in disguise!

Picture1 copyMy PhD is exploring experiences and the potential wellbeing of people affected by cancer as they undertake nature-based journeys on electrically assisted mountain bikes. My emphasis is on the journeys through natural environs and the potential benefits these may proffer, rather than the physical activity of riding a bike. I will be capturing people’s experiences (by video and journals) in the Cairngorms National Park as it offers a wide array of natural environs and it may help to understand whether green or blue spaces have a greater impact on people.

To sum things up, an inspirational friend who has helped me to realise the potential of using electrically assisted mountain bikes, states simply: “Having biked for years and then being diagnosed with Myeloma (a blood cancer), I never thought I’d get the level of confidence, freedom and fun back, but having an ebike has proved this wrong.”

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Chrissie Lane

Consultant Nurse, Cancer Care, NHS Highland and University of the Highlands and Islands PhD student


Twitter: @nhshcancercare

New Year – New You?

01janEvery year in January people set resolutions. They plan to eat better, exercise more, get fitter or thinner or stronger.

By February, most people have lost momentum on their resolutions. There are many reasons why this may be the case and many blogs on how to set resolutions and stick to them.

This post is a little different – we are here to ask you to NOT set grand resolutions or plan to completely change your habits. Instead we are going to set out the case for doing something so simple absolutely everyone can do it.

Commit to having a walk.

That’s it.

Physical activity

Physical activity is essential for good health. We are designed to move, yet society has evolved so that overtime we spend a large portion of our days being sedentary. If you are reading this blog, chances are you are either working or studying at university or thinking about doing so in the future. Academic work often involves long periods of sitting – in lecture theatres, in seminars, in libraries or at desks (though this will vary by discipline). Simply by breaking up your day, standing up and moving around a little, and adding in a short walk, you can make a difference to your health.

Being more active can significantly reduce the chance (by up to 60%) of having to live with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It promotes mental health and wellbeing, improves mood and sleep quality and reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. An active break from work or study can help you feel more alert and improve concentration.

Walk1Why walking?

Walking is something almost everyone can do. You don’t need to go to a special location or buy special equipment or the latest running shoes. Evidence shows that walking can provide as many health benefits as running the same distance.

It doesn’t have to be a long walk – research shows that a 15-minute walk immediately after eating was more effective at reducing diabetes risk than a single 45-minute daily walk.

Walking is something that can be done alone or with friends or family. It can be done as a walk for pleasure or as active commuting. It can reduce social isolation, improve health and combat climate change.

This simplicity makes it easy to incorporate into your existing daily routine. And, no matter how much you want to change that routine, it’s in existence because it fits your life and your daily tasks currently. It is far easier to make changes by adding something small and gradually increasing it, than it is to completely overhaul a routine.

The plan

TrainersStep 1 – Think about what you currently do, your daily routines and decide where you can add in some walking.

Step 2 – Set goals that make sense for you, and that you are confident (rating at least 9 on a 10-point scale) you can achieve most days.

Step 3 – Identify some cues to trigger walking towards your goals.

Step 4 – Some people find it motivating to keep a record of when they have met their goals. But most importantly, enjoy your walk(s).

If you are doing this consistently (at least 70-80% of the time) you can repeat this process as many times as you like to add in another walk, or a longer walk, or some other form of exercise.

That’s it.

It may not seem like much, but by taking this simple step, you are well on your way to reaping the benefits of moving more and sitting less.



Ronie Walters, PhD researcher, health literacy and behaviour change in cardiovascular patients

Trish Gorely, Professor, physical activity for health (pictured)

Department of Nursing and Midwifery

University of the Highlands and Islands


Images from




A 20 20 music vision | A look head to the exciting music coming from the Highlands and Islands

Fresh from the sounds and cheers for all the winners at this year’s Trad Music Awards, we begin to turn our attention to who is next, and what to watch out for in 2020.

So, who are the acts and artists to check out?    

Recognising musical taste is so varied and individual and rather than limiting our predictions to one single musician, we have enlisted the help of music influencers, experts and artists to reveal their new artists we should discover and to chat about future trends.

BBC Introducing

Calum Jones

Whilst studying on the BA (Hons) applied music, Calum Jones has been working hard developing a professional performing and recording career.  He was featured on BBC Introducing November 2019 and has this year achieved 300 global radio plays and 40K streams on Spotify played on 73 different countries.  He has been working with Alex Davies who has produced for bands including Scouting for Girls, Sigrid etc.  Calum was a finalist at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Award Up and Coming artist category with Calum Jones and the Trad ProjectHis festival performances this year included Eden Festival, Belladrum and the Gathering.

Calum is set to have a new single out every month next year (2020) from 10 January until September, when he will release his album.  Mike Curtis (producer for Suzi Quatro’s latest album) will be co-producing along with Calum.

First solo album

At the moment Liam Ross is an unsigned solo artist.  His first album is eagerly anticipated next year.  Having had an early listen, it is packed full of original material.

Liam Ross
Liam Ross Credit: Liam Ross facebook


He recently graduated from the University of the Highlands and Islands BA (hons) applied music degree and the MA in music and the environment. His reputation as a dynamic and versatile performer continues to grow. This first release has a wonderful specific connection to place and a unique sound created through Liam’s hard work in developing his fingerpicking style.


Crowd pleasing

Lewis McLaughlin and Friends enthralled the audience at Celtic Connections on Campus in 2019 with their assured performance of songs and tunes, clearly working from the tradition but adding their own contemporary edge.

Lewis McLaughlin and FriendsCredit:

I also had the pleasure of playing with Lewis again with his friends at a session at Perthshire Amber and was encouraged by their enthusiasm to embrace session culture. Lewis is a talented multi-instrumentalist and very amiable guy who is no doubt someone to watch out for. Lewis McLaughlin is a former student at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

International touch 

Battle of the Folk Bands 2018 winners Eabhal have quickly gathered the reputation as a high energy act equally at both festivals and theatres.

Eabhal Credit:

This emerging Scottish band has released their debut album and has been touring in the UK, USA and China. Selected to represent the British Council and PRS Music Foundation in China they have quickly developed their distinctive sound since their graduation from their applied music degree


Radio 1 play

Keir Gibson from Fort William is a young artist that’s really starting to attract interest from the industry.

His artistic growth has been great to watch and he’s really developing his craft, emerging as a strong, coherent and genuinely individualistic voice.

Keir Gibson credit FB page
Keir Gibson Credit: Keir Gibson facebook


He has a great team working with him to create the right infrastructure to progress to the next level and I’m excited to see what milestones he goes on to achieve in 2020. Above his musical talent, his work ethic is excellent.  For me he looks set to make a real impact next year.


  • Alex Smith, project manager for XpoNorth which returns on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 June 2020

Grand grads

We have had so many fantastic bands and songwriters come through our courses over the years, the breadth of musical talent we see on our campuses is exceptional.

Fourth Daughter is the name given to the creative output of BA (Hons) popular music graduate, Emily Atkinson, whose single ‘Time to Spare’ came out earlier this year and has been all over BBC Music Introducing since.

Emily’s work combines brilliant songwriting, exceptional vocal delivery and highly polished synth-driven pop production. Her music is getting attention as far afield as Japan, where her tracks are being used on hit TV shows. Nearer to home, Scotland on Sunday hailed Fourth Daughter as “an accomplished slice of electropop”.

Domiciles are a very different affair, showcasing some fantastic anti-pop that has echoes of Scottish post-rock legends, Mogwai. Their record, ‘This is Not a Zen Garden’, came out in August and was produced by the university’s sound engineering lecturer, Magnus Collie. The band, which features former popular music and sound engineering students, Jamie Wilde, Nick Young, Rory Cowieson and Sean Harkins, recently signed a deal with LNFG Records and have been championed by the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and The Skinny. Louder than War also named their first LP one of the top 50 albums of 2019.

Sounds from the University of the Highlands and Islands

The university’s music scene is varied and is thriving across the Highland and Islands and beyond, with the artists highlighted here only the tip of the iceberg.

Thinking about a future in the music industry?

The University of the Highlands and Islands can help you find a path that’s perfect for you. Visit us at to apply for courses starting in January or September 2020.

#thinkuhi #studymusic