By driving recruitment and winning industry awards, Inverness-based renewable energy company Ri Cruden is now expanding with support from Skills Development Scotland

An Inverness-based firm has explained how its ambitious expansion plans were boosted by support from Skills Development Scotland.

RI Cruden is a growing small business specialising in renewable energy solutions, providing high-quality installations in domestic, commercial and industrial projects. 

It began as a family business in 2005, providing heating services and evolving to specialise in renewable energy. 

Starting off with around five employees, it has now grown to around 60.

Company director Callum Cruden got in touch with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) for support through Skills for Growth as the company was experiencing a period of rapid growth, and wanted to look at it recruitment process in detail in order to identify where improvements could be made to attract the right people.

Skills for Growth is a fully-funded service for companies with between five and 250 employees, and helps employers identify and understand their skills needs. 

A detailed employer action plan is developed with guidance towards the most relevant training, funding and local business support which is based on a company’s identified skills need.

Callum said: “We were at a stage of growth and about to move to new premises. 

“We needed to make sure the next year of growth was efficient and sustainable and that we were filling all the gaps that we needed to continue to grow.”

SDS employer engagement executive Michelle Denoon worked with Ri Cruden throughout the Skills for Growth process.

Michelle said: “We provide the employer with a People Skills Action Plan which is a report providing a number of recommendations. 

“We then work with the employer to prioritise those recommendations and set out an employer action plan.”

A priority for the company is to progress the future of the business by investing in young talent. 
Michelle helped Ri Cruden with developing strong links with local schools, DYW, local colleges and charities such as Barnardo’s to provide work experience. 

They visit schools and colleges regularly to talk about the benefits of apprenticeships to students, making them more proactive with their recruitment, and widening their talent pool. 

Michelle said: “Employer collaboration and proactivity is key to successful skills for growth, and Callum and the team are a great example of what can be achieved. We’ve worked with many partners throughout this project to ensure public sector business support is maximised including HIE, UHI, DYW, Business Gateway and SMAS.

Callum said: “We had regular catch-ups with Michelle, which was really beneficial, and the scheduled visits helped us keep focused and on track to achieve our goals.”

Michelle added: “We have an ongoing relationship with these employers with regular contact to ensure that the recommendations are being met, and we support the employer to achieve them, for example by helping them find the right learning provider, through to helping them access any funding that might be available to them.”

Since accessing support through Skills for Growth, RI Cruden has increased its number of employees from 42 to 60, and its apprentices from 12 to 18. 

It was also winner in the SME Employer of the Year category at the 2024 Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, and of the Net Zero Apprenticeship Employer of the Year category in 2023 as well as nine individual apprentice awards over 2023/24.

RI Cruden has created a culture of continuous learning by investing heavily in training. 
A key milestone for RI Cruden was developing its own apprenticeship programme, led by Greg Matheson, the longest-serving member of its team who started as an apprentice in 2011. 

Creating clear pathways that provide knowledge, skills and experience for young people provides RI Cruden with a model of sustainable talent attraction while enabling local young people to progress their careers in the construction and renewables sector.  

The company is supporting the future development of apprenticeships by participating in qualification development, providing valuable industry input to the future of apprenticeships in construction. 

It is committed to promoting gender equality in the industry, with the number of female apprentices increasing by 10% in the last year. 

Michelle said: “They’re really committed to developing their workforce and they recognise that the people and skills in the organisation are key to their growth and resilience.

Callum added: “We’re really proud with what we’ve achieved through Skills for Growth. 
“We’ve found it really beneficial, making sure we keep focused on our team and making sure that we’re an employer of choice. I’d definitely recommend Skills for Growth to others.” 

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