AN ORGANISATION aimed at getting more women in rural areas into new skills, and possibly into their own businesses, has doubled its numbers.

The group has grown from 180 members in the spring to 360 at the last count and, although members live as far afield as Cyprus and Canada, the main target audience is North Yorkshire.

Worcnet - Women's Opportunity for Rural Contact through Networking, Education and Training - has had significant funding from Yorkshire Forward via an action plan managed by Learning and Skills Council North Yorkshire.

Joan Palmer, director of lifelong learning at LSC, said: "We are constantly working to break down the barriers to learning and enterprise, including the constraints that rurality might put on a community in developing a locally skilled workforce.

"Worcnet has given us the chance to target funding to this audience, giving people the confidence and network support to encourage economic growth."

Tyro Training at Craven College is host to the project and gives support.

Worcnet has developed a raft of support for women in rural areas, ranging from skills training to an interactive web site where women can use the message board to keep in touch.

Worcnet's project co-ordinator Debi Hawkins and her colleague Kath Mason are putting the finishing touches to a week of activities for Enterprise Week, November 15-20. The line-up includes workshops on setting up a business and how keen cooks can turn their talents into a business opportunity.

"So many women have the talent, experience and ability to set up their own business but often lack the confidence to turn their dreams into reality," said Debi Hawkins. "Through Worcnet we aim to encourage women to believe in themselves and to provide the opportunity for them to share ideas and hopes."

Julie Gooch has already benefited from the support available through Worcnet. She and her husband transformed a run-down farmhouse into an award-winning holiday property.

Worcnet helped Mrs Gooch develop an interest in a web site for the business through a couple of computer courses. Since then, she has taken part in a Worcnet personal development programme which she says has been invaluable.

"Getting involved with Worcnet and the development programme has been excellent," she said.