Scotch Whisky – investing in a skilled workforce

The following article was recently published by the Scotch Whisky Association on skills and training in the Scotch Whisky industry. It provides some very useful statistics, insight and findings.

New report shows industry’s commitment to investing in its people

Commitment to skills and training are at the core of the continued success of the Scotch Whisky industry.

‘Scotch Whisky, Skilled Workforce’ from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) underlines the industry’s investment in its employees through training and development.

The industry directly employs 10,800 people in Scotland and supports more than 40,000 jobs in total across the UK. It adds £5 billion in value annually to the UK economy and is a star performer when it comes to exports. Investing in the future of Scotch Whisky therefore benefits the entire economy and helps keep Scotland competitive.

The SWA’s new research into skills and training – being showcased at an event this evening at the Scottish Parliament – emphasises the industry’s understanding of the need to invest in its workforce. Key findings include:

  • 96% of Scotch Whisky companies provide training to employees, compared to the Scottish national average of 71%.
  • 78% of Scotch Whisky firms to do not face general recruitment issues. But there is an engineering skills shortage affecting many industries, including Scotch. Engineering UK says that Scotland will need an additional 147,300 engineers by 2022, compared with 2012 levels*.
  • The industry recruits at all levels – 87% of companies take on graduates; 57% hire technical and management staff; 61% recruit school leavers and 39% apprentices.
  • The industry engages well with schools to educate students on the diverse range of opportunities in Scotch Whisky.
  • The industry and its partners offer a rich range of qualifications including the Spirits Industry Vocational Qualification providing on-the-job competence-based qualifications.
  • Modern and in-house apprenticeships are offered by Scotch Whisky companies.
  • The industry supports the Scottish Government’s skills strategy.

While the overall picture is positive for the industry, the SWA report found that there are challenges to be addressed. These include ensuring there is access to people with skills in such areas as engineering and project management, in particular, where Scotch Whisky competes with other areas when it comes to recruitment.


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The report lists a number of actions to prepare for such challenges. The SWA will:

  • Conduct regular surveys of skills and recruitment in the industry and apply findings to the broader skills debate in Scotland.
  • Highlight the value of Modern Apprenticeships to the industry.
  • Promote on-line training for the industry and wider supply chain.
  • Forge even closer relationships with Skills Development Scotland, championing its Skills and Investment Plan and ‘World of Work’ web page.
  • Work with the Scottish Government to promote its ‘Manufacturing Future for Scotland’ strategy.

Cabinet Secretary for fair work and skills Roseanna Cunningham, said: “Three simple ingredients are needed to make a great Scotch Whisky – water, yeast and cereal – but of course there is a great deal more. Skill, expertise, and commitment that the workforce deliver creates the product that has a worldwide recognition for excellence.

“The Scotch Whisky industry is a cornerstone of the Scottish economy, directly employing around 10,000 people in Scotland and supporting a total of about 40,000 jobs across the UK, with many of them located in our rural and remote communities.  This report being launched today serves to remind us just how diverse the job opportunities are within the industry  –  from technical and electrical engineers, researchers, sales and marketing to tourist-related activity, legal, administration and management.

“There are many skilled jobs within this industry that help make it the global success it is and The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the needs of this key industry.  It is timely that this report is being launched today, as Skills Development Scotland are in the process of revitalising the food & drink Skills Investment Plan, which will help inform the Food and Drink Strategy refresh to take place later this year.”

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “The industry relies on the world-class capabilities of its people from procurement to production, logistics to sales. Attracting new talent and ensuring the workforce remains highly skilled is critical to our long-term future. Skills and training are vital for the continued success of Scotch Whisky.

“We will work with the Scottish Government to ensure our people are as well-trained, highly skilled and motivated as possible. Our employees are key to the future growth of the Scotch Whisky industry and the economy as a whole.”


Notes to editors
The ‘Scotch Whisky, Skilled Workforce’ report containing a number of industry case studies is available to download via the website – SWA

For more information on the SWA visit and follow us on Twitter @ScotchWhiskySWA

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