HIGHLAND Council has kick-started a massive recruitment drive in a bid to replace staff potentially lost through Brexit.
Leading councillors say there will be huge gaps in the workforce, particularly in tourism and hospitality, if EU nationals are forced to leave next year.
Around 10 per cent of the Highland population is from elsewhere in Europe and it is feared they will not be able to continue living and working here when Britain leaves the EU in March.
In anticipation, the council has launched a "workforce plan" to offer employment within the council through apprenticeships and other training schemes to "grow our own" as well as promoting the Highlands to attract people from elsewhere.
Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "We finally have a serious workforce plan in place but we need other public sector organisations to do the same and work together.
"We are all fishing in the same pool but the pool is not big enough so we need to be really good at growing our own and we haven’t done enough of that.
"There is going to be a real change when Brexit happens.
"We have a low unemployment rate because we don’t have enough people to do all of the jobs.
"We need a plan to attract people, not just saying come to the Highlands it’s a nice place, we have to offer housing, attractive facilities, broadband and help their partners find a job if they’re coming as a family."
Even if EU nationals are allowed to stay, there are fears many will already have left due to the uncertainty.
Council convener Bill Lobban said: "We need more staff in our tourism hotspots.
"In my ward, Badenoch and Strathspey, there is a negative unemployment rate, there are more jobs than we are able to fill.
"If you take away the important labour from the EU it concerns me what we will be able to do.
"If those European staff leave or are not allowed to stay, how do we fill those jobs? It’s a very big problem."
Last year a council report raised "very real concerns" about the potential number of highly qualified EU staff who may leave the Highlands due to Brexit.
The impact of Brexit on the Highland economy was being discussed by experts at a special talk in Inverness as the Courier went to print yesterday.
Gary Gillespie, the chief economist of the Scottish Government, presented its most recent analysis of the economic effects at the event in the council’s chambers headquarters.