ENCOURAGING more young people to join youth theatre will pay dividends in the future, according to Outlander star Sam Heughan.

He made the comment as the national development organisation for Scotland’s youth theatre artists, audiences and leaders joined the growing number of organisations signing up for Scottish Living Wage Accreditation.

Youth Theatre Arts Scotland (YTAS) aims to transform lives by providing inspiring opportunities for young people, and by connecting, supporting and training the professionals and volunteers that work with them.

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Its patron is Heughan, star of the hit TV series Outlander, who discovered a passion for acting at the Lyceum Youth Theatre. His big break came when he was cast as Jamie Fraser, the lead in Outlander.

He said he chose to support YTAS because of the role youth theatre played in his own career and also because of its importance for local communities. It provides an “amazing” opportunity, he said, for any young person looking to further their creativity, ideas, and to develop new skills.

“Youth Theatre is for everyone – it’s about a community, it’s about being supported by your peer group,” he said. “You learn skills, not just acting but all the other sides needed for working in TV, film and the theatre industry.

“I’d like to instil the belief that if you join a youth theatre, it’s a gateway to greater career prospects. I know if we get young people involved in the sector, it’s going to pay dividends in the future.”

YTAS delivers youth theatre projects while also offering professional development and advocacy. It runs events including The National Festival of Youth Theatre – the largest annual gathering of youth theatres in the UK – and Interchange, an annual skills-development conference for youth theatre professionals. In 2015 YTAS also launched Chrysalis, a micro festival which showcases the most innovative work by young theatre-makers, delivered in partnership with the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

Chief executive Kenny McGlashan said: “The company has played an instrumental role in building a vibrant and vital youth theatre sector for Scotland, transforming what was once a small, informal community, into a confident, well-connected and far-reaching network of groups and professionals.”

YTAS employs freelance and temporary artists, producers, technicians and interns to deliver its events and McGlashan said it took its role as a best-practice employer very seriously.

“Youth Theatre Arts Scotland pays the living wage to all its employees,” he added. “It highlights how our values and role in Scotland’s cultural development underpin the work we do with youth theatre professionals and young people.”

YTAS became Scottish Accredited Living Wage employers in March 2016, which means everyone working there, regardless of whether they are permanent employees or third-party contractors and suppliers, receives a minimum hourly wage of £8.45 – significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £7.20.

“YTAS are extremely good at looking after their staff, whether paid or volunteers,” said one volunteer for the group, which has a core team of eight, with all apart from the CEO working part-time.

Since its launch in April 2014, more than 600 organisations in Scotland have signed up to the scheme to become accredited as official living wage employers.