A new scheme helping up to 600 young people every year understand the job opportunities available to them in rural areas has been launched.

It is hoped the Routes to Rural Employment (R2RE) initiative will help thousands of young people discover how to develop careers in the countryside over the next five years.

The programme, organised by the Scottish Countryside Alliance, will work with primary and secondary schools and develop work experience as well as group mentoring.

It will also provide financial and administrative support to a number of those entering the workplace on an apprenticeship or low wage so that their pay will equal a living wage.

Jamie Stewart, director for the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said: "There is a real need to develop an understanding of the opportunities available to young people in rural areas.

"Not only does this programme benefit young people by affording them education, mentoring and support to help them secure employment, it also supports the rural economy which needs the next generation in order to survive and thrive."

In its first year the programme aims to work with 300 children at primary school level, 200 at secondary school and a further 100 about to enter the world of work.