Initiative to train youngsters in whisky retailing

AT A reception last week in Edinburgh, Gleneagles chairman Peter Lederer was served by one of the 100 or so young people who have completed the Learning for Life programme launched in Scotland earlier this year.
Peter Lederer: a demand for highly-trained knowledgeable staff Picture: Neil HannaPeter Lederer: a demand for highly-trained knowledgeable staff Picture: Neil Hanna
Peter Lederer: a demand for highly-trained knowledgeable staff Picture: Neil Hanna

A collaboration spearheaded by Gleneagles owner Diageo, the initiative targets those who could get into work but are ­being held back by personal ­issues such as family problems, substance abuse or a lack of confidence.

Along with vocational training, the young people taking part receive practical help to tackle their own issues and sharpen basic skills such as CV writing.

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Like every other trainee to finish the hospitality course, the young man from Edinburgh who served Lederer was offered work after completing the programme. He has taken it up, but still wears his Learning for Life T-shirt.

“If you had told him six months ago he would be doing that kind of work, he would have laughed at you,” Lederer told Scotland on Sunday.

“He was a completely different individual from the shy, nervous person I remember from the beginning of the year. You could see that he is proud of what he has achieved.”

Learning for Life steps up a gear tomorrow when the programme expands into its next phase, which is training in the field of specialist retailing. Lederer will be in Edinburgh to greet 15 local young people as they begin a four-week course on selling whisky.

“The largest private sector employer in Scotland is the retail sector, and there are many opportunities out there,” he said. “There is demand for highly-trained and knowledgeable staff among those who sell whisky.”

Run in partnership with youth employment charity The Prince’s Trust, the course will be delivered by the Scotch Whisky Experience from its centre on the Royal Mile.

Trainees will get the chance of work experience with retailers and venues such as Edinburgh Castle, Glenkinchie Distillery, Harvey Nichols, Royal Mile Whiskies, Whiski Rooms and Whisky & Wine.

Learning for Life originated within Diageo’s Brazilian operations in 2009, and has since spread to 30 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2012, Miami became the first city in the US to ­implement the programme, with others such as New York set to follow.

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About 200 young people in Scotland will have completed the hospitality course by the end of September. Some of them were deployed in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, while another 50 are preparing themselves for the Ryder Cup.

“We are now operating in Glasgow, Dundee, Dumbarton, Edinburgh, Stirling, Fife, Perth, Elgin and Inverness, so we are getting a good spread of young people, and not just in the cities,” Lederer said.

Diageo expects to spend £5 million on the programme in the course of five years, with that investment ramping up as the initiative extends into entrepreneurship and manufacturing by the end of this year.

“Entrepreneurship will be next,” Lederer said, predicting a launch within the next four to six weeks.

“We have got very good conversations going on with the Saltire Foundation about what we would like to do.”