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Brian MacAulay: Moray’s future workforce will ‘rise to the challenge’

Brian MacAulay has whisky-making and young workforce development roles.
Brian MacAulay has whisky-making and young workforce development roles.

My “day job” is whisky production at Chivas which, as you would imagine, involves a lot of long-term planning, predicting and a good measure of optimism.

So it feels natural for me, as chair of DYW Moray, to apply the same approach.

And if I look ahead to the next 12 months, there are both opportunities and challenges.

What is important is to be clear in our plans and priorities.

Young people are digital natives. They have grown up in a digital world.”

Covid restrictions continue to hinder proper face-to-face interactions with DYW Moray stakeholders and this looks likely to continue for some time.

Technology is a wonderful thing but I’m sure we can all relate to the difficulties inherent in trying to make real connections and hold attention in a sea of pixelated faces on Teams or Zoom.

I don’t mean to dismiss the role of technology. It is driving rapid changes in the world of work, with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics creating an employment landscape that will likely be unrecognisable in years to come.

Young people are digital natives. They have grown up in a digital world, and instinctively understand and adapt to what can be bewildering updates and upgrades.

Net-zero” is a phrase that is never far from any workplace conversation, whether it is about reducing plastic waste or finding more sustainable processes and materials.

Again, these are key aspects in my “day job”. Reducing our carbon footprint, introducing automation and new technology are all issues that we are addressing daily.

With the world waking up to the climate challenge, young people are at the forefront of movements driving awareness of the fragility of our environment.

It is something they care about and their fresh view can really help.

This will be the one of the main drivers in the world of work over the coming 10 years.

Another challenge facing employers in the region is recruitment.

We can adapt to many things but the lack of a skilled workforce today and also for the roles of tomorrow is a real threat to a flourishing and prosperous business environment.

Opportunities

But there is help at hand. The Moray Growth Deal signed at the end of last year will see investment of £100 million in the region in the next 10 years.

A key aim of the deal is to attract and retain young people and families in the area. It will also create new high-quality jobs in existing sectors, as well as diversifying our economy into new ones.

I recently met our local MSP and Scottish Government minister Richard Lochhead to discuss the Just Transition Commission.

This government initiative wants to involve communities, businesses and workers in planning the transition to a net-zero and climate-resilient economy.

There is a real appreciation in the region for the importance of preparing our young people to enter the workplace.”

Although I have talked about technology and carbon reduction as challenges, as with most things in life, they can also be seen as opportunities – which is where my optimism comes in.

Despite the obvious challenges in 2021, with pressures on both education and business, it was a successful period for DYW Moray.

There is a real appreciation in the region for the importance of preparing our young people to enter the workplace.

I am consistently impressed by the commitment of local businesses and educators towards achieving this aim.

And that’s including the remarkable efforts of the DYW Moray team, which has more than doubled in size in the past year, with the appointment of four new school co-ordinators.

Priorities

Which leads me on to our priorities. The DYW Moray board has pledged to deliver on its three-year strategy to build a strong partnership foundation to find sustainable solutions to prepare all young people in Moray for entering the world of work.

We will do this in schools by strengthening links between businesses, policy and education.

Whether through advising on apprenticeships, highlighting funding to hire young people or support with recruiting and advertising jobs, we will continue to help business achieve their own growth targets.

Parents ‘vital role’

We also need to engage with the incredibly vital role parents play in influencing young people in their decisions, raising awareness of existing and these exciting new opportunities.

We are fortunate to have a board that includes key employers in Moray to support us, from Johnstons of Elgin and Associated Seafoods to Santander and Specsavers.

‘Anxious but exciting times’

These are anxious but exciting times for our young people and I am confident they will rise to the challenge.

How can we help prepare them? Well, by building their key transferrable skills and attitudes that will stand them in good stead in the future – whatever that may bring.

We can boost their confidence and resilience, and convince them there is a positive future.

So please do include supporting the future workforce in your own planning and predictions for 2022. If you’re keen to make a difference, get in touch at info@dywmoray.co.uk

Brian MacAulay is chairman of Developing the Young Workforce Moray. He is also malt distilleries, spirit supply and warehousing group manager for Chivas Brothers, based at the firm’s Miltonduff Distillery near Elgin.

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