Workers and businesses who depend on Dounreay are set to benefit from a £2.2M programme to help them adjust to the closure of the site.
An estimated 2,000 jobs will disappear over the next 15 years or so as the clean-up and demolition of the former nuclear research site nears completion.
The new project, called Make the Right Connections, aims to help employees of affected businesses find new opportunities as spending on the site closure declines.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce is leading the initiative to harness the skills and expertise at the site, and the chamber will carry out an audit of current skills and business capabilities and match these with opportunities in new industries through retraining, business growth and marketing.
Some 50 companies are involved directly in the clean-up, which accounts for more than 10% of the current GDP of the north Highlands, and many more benefit indirectly from consumer spending.
The largest single workforce is approximately 900 employed by Dounreay Site Restoration (DSR), the main clean-up contractor to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. These two organisations worked together to provide funding for the project.
DSR has reduced the size of its workforce by approximately 300 in the last five years and the company expects to shrink every year through to 2025 as more of the site is cleaned up and demolished.
Other sources include Skills Development Scotland and £1.1M from the European Structural Fund.
DSR head of human resources Michael Dunnett said: “Socio-economic planning and co-operation is an essential part of our site closure programme. This new initiative promises to make a significant contribution to the economic wellbeing of the north Highlands when Dounreay has gone.
“It builds on the work we’ve already started with our own workforce to help them transition. It reaches out to the supply chain as well as our own staff and will help them to identify routes out of decommissioning and into new business and job opportunities in emerging sectors such as marine energy and offshore decommissioning.
“For our own staff, the programme will look to give them national recognition of their skills and competencies, which will assist individuals to move into these future opportunities.”