With assistance from Skills Development Scotland’s ‘Skills for Growth’ service, Inverness hotel owner Victoria Erasmus has recently expanded her business by attracting fresh talent to the workforce and also investing in their ongoing development

FOR many businesses, finding the right people with the right skills is one of the key challenges.

That’s not just a case of recruitment, but also making sure current staff members grow their skills as the business develops.

Victoria Erasmus, director and owner of Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness, is one such employer who has seen her business grow in the last few months.

Starting as a 27-room hotel, it has now extended to several townhouses along the River Ness and the soon-to-be-open Uile-bheist Distillery and Brewery which is sustainably powered by the water from the river.   

The family-owned business has a strong focus on sustainable tourism and supporting people with additional support needs into employment. Victoria turned to the Skills for

Growth service from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to help with her vision.
Skills for Growth is a fully-funded service for companies with between five and 250 employees and helps employers such as the Glen Mhor Hotel understand their skills needs and create a detailed Employer Action Plan with guidance towards training, funding and local business support. 

Victoria said: “Skills for Growth is exactly what we needed. Somebody who can help us put an action plan in place. They looked at the staff, where they were and what could be done to support them. They helped me engage meaningfully with my staff and that was probably the best part for me.”

Victoria met Michelle Denoon, Employer Engagement Executive at SDS, during a lunch organised by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI). 

Victoria said: “After listening to Michelle talk about Skills for Growth I thought that’s what the business needed in order to take the staff from where they were to where they were going. It would take a lot of mindset changes, a lot of training, a lot of upskilling but it all had to start at where we were right in that moment and fill those gaps.”

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Michelle guided Victoria through the process and has provided ongoing support to the business. 

As part of the package of support, Michelle assessed the skills needs of the company and provided them with recommendations to develop its workforce.

These included recommendations for work-based learning and connecting them with Edinburgh College to utilise the Flexible Workforce Development Fund and their HR Manager is now hoping to start a CIPD course. 

Michelle said: “Skills for Growth has allowed Victoria and the team to take a strategic approach by reviewing the current skills within the business and those needed for the future. 

“Together we’ve been able to identify the learning and development needs of existing staff and also how to attract new talent by further engaging with education.

“Victoria is dedicated to supporting and developing her staff. I’ve found it inspiring to see how she is putting her vision into action by creating a diverse workforce and actively supporting people with additional support needs into employment, leading the way to make this standard practice.”

Sustainable tourism is at the heart of everything they do and one of the actions from Skills for Growth was development of a green policy and a “Green Team”. Staff have also recently been on a climate emergency course. 

Following the Skills for Growth review, the Glen Mhor have further invested in Modern Apprenticeships to develop existing staff including Digital Marketing, Hospitality Management, Professional Cookery and Accounting. 

They are also currently planning to advertise for up to three Apprentices in Food and Drink Operations for the Brewery and Distillery, confident that their skills approach will make them a more attractive employer in a challenging labour market.

Victoria said: “We made the commitment to be the best at supporting people with additional needs. 

“We wanted Michelle to not only focus on the business but to also look into clean energy and inclusion.”

To fulfil that ambition, the hotel offers flexible working, has changed its recruitment process, and is committed to employing a diverse workforce.

Victoria added: “Staff training is key to achieve this. We went from conversations where people were worried they would say or do the wrong thing to now looking for the next thing and sharing things that could be 
done better.”

To learn more, visit ourskillsforce.co.uk/growth

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Opportunities for senior pupils to build a career

SENIOR pupils making their subject choices have the chance to gain vital experience in sectors from financial services to childcare by choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship.

Offered as an option for S4 and S5 learners, there are 12 Foundation Apprenticeship subjects to choose from at SCQF level 6, with learning equivalent to a higher.

Pupils get valuable insights into the world of work and explore career opportunities in a wide range of sectors also including children and young people, business skills, engineering, IT, construction and food and drink technologies.  

With no exam at the end, a Foundation Apprenticeship does not interfere with other studies but instead complements pupils’ other subjects – providing experience that can set them up for work, progression to a Modern or Graduate Apprenticeship job, or further study at college or university. 

Learners from S2 to S5 across the country are choosing their subjects, with the work-based learning opportunities offered by Foundation Apprenticeships playing an ever-increasing role in the curriculum. 

Lewis Pincombe is in a Modern Apprenticeship job with Historic Environment Scotland at Stirling Castle after kick-starting his career journey at school by choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship in Construction. 

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He said the experience showed him what doing an apprenticeship involves and gave him the confidence to progress to a Modern Apprenticeship in a different sector when he left school last year. 

Lewis, 18, is a Cultural Venue Operations Modern Apprentice at the castle – one of Scotland’s most popular attractions. His duties involve everything from working on the admissions and retail side to guided tours and events. 

He said: “When I applied for Modern Apprenticeships, at the interview the employers were very interested to hear about the Foundation Apprenticeship I took at school. This gave me a great tool to talk about and showcase my experience.” 
Lewis said he has gained valuable work and personal skills from doing his Foundation Apprenticeship alongside the other subjects chose at school to help set him up for a big future.

He added: “I’m definitely a lot better at interacting with people than I was thanks to my apprenticeship. I also did Spanish at school which came in handy when a group of Spanish tourists asked for directions in the castle.

"Choosing an apprenticeship allows me to be more hands-on which I prefer as it’s more in line with my learning style”.

Foundation Apprenticeships last one or two years. Pupils spend time out of school with a learning provider, such as a local college and with a local employer to complete the apprenticeship alongside their other subjects.

Careers advisers are on hand in high schools to help pupils navigate their subject choices and with the option for parents to attend subject choice meetings with careers advisors, everyone is kept informed.

Foundation Apprenticeships are providing young people from all walks of life with more opportunities and delivering the skills that employers and the economy need to continue to grow and thrive. 

Pupils say that completing a Foundation Apprenticeship has boosted their other skills with 95 per cent saying it improved communication, 95% on communication and 93% on teamwork proving that Foundation Apprenticeships are a great way to kick-start a young person’s big future.  

To find out more, just visit online at apprenticeships.scot