A new initiative aimed at helping Scotland’s struggling food and drink businesses could “really get the economy rolling again” according to Grampian and Highland commerce chiefs.
The Academy scheme, part of the first major investment from Scotland Food and Drink Partnership’s £5m Recovery Plan, will launch a number of training programmes in the hope of providing relief to 200 Scottish businesses affected by the covid-19 pandemic.
The Scottish Government-backed plan will see three programmes rolled out to support businesses and will be delivered by the Scotland Food and Drink Partnership, consultants and training experts Levercliff Associates.
Hospitality sector hit-hard by Covid
Adrian Watson, chief executive of trade body Aberdeen Inspired, said: “It would be great to see some north-east businesses benefit from this at a time when it’s most needed for the sector.
“Businesses in the hospitality sector in the north-east have been particularly hard-hit throughout this pandemic and it was even difficult pre-Covid-19 with the challenges to the oil and gas industry, which plays right through to the high street.
“If there were a liberal sprinkling of businesses up here that were able to take advantage of this particular scheme we would right behind that.”
The training programmes includes a series of programmes designed to support companies at various stages of their growth ambitions.
Starting in May 2021, it is aimed at companies whose primary focus is on maximising their local markets and beginning to move to broader Scottish and UK markets.
Food and drink is one of key economic drivers
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “Food and drink is one of the key drivers of the north-east economy and is identified as a key growth sector in the regional economic strategy.
“It has been one of the hardest hit by government Covid-19 restrictions and those companies that export to or import from Europe are now dealing with the double-whammy of the end of the EU transition period.
“Building skills and increasing competencies now is vital to ensuring businesses in the sector have the tools and confidence to drive our recovery.”
Elaine Jamieson, head of food and drink at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a partner in the programme delivery, said: “Food and drink is a crucial sector for our region and one that supports many vital rural jobs.
“It will help business leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their growth and thrive in UK markets.
“We very much look forward to working with our partners and food and drink clients to support the sector in its recovery and growth.”
Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy and tourism, added: “I know that the last year has been particularly difficult with Brexit and Covid-19 each taking their toll on many businesses.
“It might feel difficult to invest time and resource right now but the Academy will provide the tools to future fit their businesses and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”