A high level of education attainment is a characteristic of The Western Isles. For their population, the islands boast one of the highest proportion of graduates anywhere in the UK. The regionís impressive skill base includes a wide range of different qualifications and aptitudes.
Lasair Information Services Limited has been trading successfully since 1995. The company has been tapping into this pool of talent to provide a high quality outsourcing service for a global customer base, while also creating employment and opportunity in the islands.
When formed with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Western Isles Enterprise assistance, Lasair was unique and has since grown to become the largest outsource service provider in the Western Isles. Director Seonag MacVicar channels work to teleworkers in all parts of the Western Isles, and on occasion to the Inner Hebrides as well.
Drawing extensively on the skills register maintained by Work Global to locate the skills required to meet its customersí requirements, the company has built up an impressive client list. This has included the Forensic Science Service, S1jobs.com, Iomart, Madasafish, Taylor & Francis Ltd, Crystal Clear International Ltd, Infochem and many others predominantly in such fields as engineering, publishing, scientific, database creation and internet support.
Even the more complex projects are made possible by the high calibre of the teleworking staff which the Western Isles is able to provide. Lasair has been able for instance, to fulfil a large contract with an online marketing database company in the States. Here the customer needed a significant number of workers to provide abstracting and indexing services where the key requirement was good English language skills.
CnES and WIE have shares in the business, and have provided grant and loan assistance in the past, while Lasair has also networked within the islandsí extensive IT community. The directors work closely with companies such as Simply Top, who have been able to offer simple web hosting solutions and a number of other systems designed to facilitate the transfer of work to teleworkers.
The services which Lasair offers include abstracting and database maintenance, editing, translation, proof reading, data capture, web design, programming and other web services. By diversifying rapidly over the years, the company has been able to maintain its business despite ever-increasing competition in this area of work from the Far East.
The companyís location is not an issue, either for its customers or for the teleworkers with whom it works. Lasair was originally located in Benbecula, which is between North and South Uist in the southern group of the Western Isles. Nowadays, however, the company has evolved to become one of the new trend of virtual companies with a base in Stornoway, Lewis - the administrative capital of the Western Isles.
"Our ability to gain and retain work is based solely on the high quality, timely service we provide," says Seonag MacVicar. "New areas for expansion are developing rapidly."
In fact, the Western Isles offers many benefits to business process outsourcing companies like Lasair. These benefits include low business overheads and a highly skilled, well-motivated and forward-thinking workforce. According to Seonag MacVicar: "The teleworkers are usually highly qualified and very experienced in their particular area of work." Generally, the self-employed teleworkers link directly to Lasair, while Lasair manages the relationship with the client.
The imminent arrival of broadband in the Western Isles will make things even easier for Lasair, increasing the capability to handle large files and providing a direct benefit for a number of the companyís specific areas of work. Some databases can be 100Mb in size, making them virtually impossible to transfer on a dial-up connection. Web site design and maintenance is also an important area of Lasairís business - the far more rapid updating and downloading which broadband offers is sure to open up new opportunities in this area of work.
There will also be a benefit for teleworkers themselves, who will be empowered by more rapid transfer of data - not being tied to their computers for the length of the download.
The availability of broadband is another reason why outsource service providers such as Lasair will continue to flourish in the high skill environment of the Western Isles, providing a service for customers all over the UK and beyond.