Diageo in £5m plan to boost service skills

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Drinks giant Diageo is to spend £5 million over the next five years to provide Scotland with a new generation of better trained hospitality workers.

Scotland is the first European country to launch the initiative, which is being led by Peter Lederer, chairman of Diageo’s Gleneagles Hotel.

A class of 12 from a pilot bartending course in Glasgow graduate today following six weeks of intensive course work, individual mentoring and on-the-job training. They are also guided in workplace proficiency, CV writing, confidence-building and presentation skills.

“We tried to find individuals who have barriers to work, but if you can address those barriers, then they can work,” Lederer explained.

“A lot of the barriers we found, it was not the working that was a problem, it was that bit before.”

The Learning for Life programme 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 it, with others such as New York set to follow.

Other European countries are expected to take up the initiative, which is tailored to suit the needs of the local area. Many emerging tourist markets in Latin America, for example, have concentrated on things like food hygiene and teaching basic English.

In Scotland, the programme will initially focus upon bartending and hospitality skills. These sectors are traditionally seen as providers of stopgap jobs, but Lederer said the industry needs to put more emphasis on paths to careers such as sommelier, chef or spa manager.

“There are so many opportunities world-wide, and young people can progress very quickly,” he said.

The Scottish initiative will be extended into manufacturing, which accounts for about 4,000 of Diageo’s employees in this country. Courses in retailing are also planned.

“The other thing we are looking at is the whole entrepreneurship piece,” Lederer added.

As well as training up young people, the programme aims to create more businesses to employ these workers. It will do this in conjunction with existing start-up initiatives such as Entrepreneurial Spark and the Saltire Foundation, where Lederer is a trustee.

“We are not going to do something in addition,” he said. “We are going to try and accelerate some of what those other organisations are already doing.”

Up to 200 people are expected to participate in Learning for Life programmes in the first year. Lederer hopes that other companies will get involved as the initiative spreads into new regions and sectors across Scotland.