Follow VisitScotland

Investing in our young people

Blog post   •   Mar 22, 2017 16:21 GMT

Rachel Woods - VisitScotland Modern Apprentice

In case you didn’t notice, Scottish Apprenticeship Week has whizzed past again for another year, writes Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland.

On my travels, I was delighted to see an eight-foot square-sided poster in Glasgow Central Station featuring our own Rachel Woods, one of our Tourism Modern Apprentices.

She was showcased during the week in a beautiful picture standing on a rock with Eilean Donan Castle in the background. I must ask and see whether Rachel was actually taken on a photoshoot up to Loch Alsh or whether one of our smart design team in HQ managed to Photoshop her on to the stone. The poster also revealed that Rachel, who works in our marketing team, is autistic.

This condition has not hindered her career progress. She is coming through the ranks at VisitScotland and is one of the best young advocates for what we do. Through her work, she has been able to meet business people, celebrities and been introduced to Princess Anne. She has also had luncheon at St James’ Palace in London with Prince Andrew. She is an inspiration to everybody she meets.

It is encouraging to see those in the so-called Millennial generation embracing tourism as a career. And we really need them. From the perspective of organic growth, the tourism sector in the UK will create over 100,000 new jobs in the next few years. This is before we stimulate demand with new attractions and ventures. We have to make the Scottish tourism industry a highly attractive proposition as a career. The stuck-in-a-groove narrative has been a bit too narrow, focusing on the hospitality side.

It’s been too easy for young people to get put off because of its long hours in basement kitchens, relentlessly hard work and relatively low pay until you get a foot on the career ladder. But we need to insist that people can break their way through in this dynamic industry and make it to maitre ‘d or a hotel general manager at a young age. If so inclined, it can take you around the world before, hopefully, you bring all that experience and skill back to Scotland.

However, there is much more to consider. We have a microcosm of all the emerging skills within VisitScotland such as finance, human relations, digital developers, content managers, website editors, data analytics and marketing professionals. To encourage more young people, such as Rachel, we need to start early and get out in the schools where we can influence career guidance. I don’t really think that people properly appreciate that the tourism industry offers a ‘broad-spectrum’ of career choices with some amazing opportunities.

We now have a cohort of about 40 people who have been trained and are going out to Scottish schools to inform them about the opportunities in the tourism sector. A career in tourism is accessible to so many people and what we really need are people with a great attitude and a keen-ness to promote our fantastic country. It is not about qualifications, it’s about attitude and how to bring out the best talent. We need to get a stronger foothold into Scotland’s colleges and the universities and we are already undertaking mentoring work in our business schools.

Internally, we have embraced the Modern Apprenticeship Programme and are now in our fourth year. We have been taking on about six apprentices per year and they earn a NVQ at the end of their tenure. We pay them the Scottish Living Wage as a starting rate and we don’t discriminate. And almost 75% of these young people are still with us!

What we have to do is place our trust in young people because they are an investment for the future. That is why we are all committed to the Year of Young People 2018. The aim of the Year is to inspire Scotland through its young people, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contribution to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally.

Our Modern Apprentices are managed by our Learning and Development Manager and they meet with Investors in Young People on a regular basis. As chief executive, I have taken a keen interest in nurturing this talent and been moved by the feedback we get from these young people. There is another benefit too. They need to be managed and this gives others the chance to step up and help mentor, mould and shape a young person’s first career steps. That is a privilege.

There are many benefits from the Modern Apprenticeships scheme. For me, it’s about bringing on the holistic talent of a young person and giving them a chance to shine. Rachel is just one of our many remarkable young people, let’s allow many more Rachels to flourish.