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Hotel benefits from Skills for Growth support

Employers Skills planning Rural Scotland

Victoria Erasmus, Director and owner of Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness, has seen her business develop and 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.”

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

241122 Glen Mhor 026
I’ve found it inspiring to see how Victoria 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.

Michelle Denoon

Employer Engagement Executive, SDS

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 creating and developing 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. 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 make our business more inclusive we’ve changed our recruitment process. We have social stories for job interviews and another one for work experience. The questions are sent to the candidates in advance. They are offered a sit down, a walk around and a movement interview and we also offer the “bring a buddy” system. We select places and they can choose where they want the interview to take place. This is standard practice; it is something that we have changed in our recruitment process.”

Skills for Growth has connected Victoria with the Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) and Glen Mhor is one of 30 employers taking part their current project around inclusion in the workplace. The Glen Mhor also offer a range of flexible working opportunities to help ensure that access to work is not a barrier to those with additional support needs.

Victoria’s aim is to ensure that all businesses have a diverse workforce and are aware of the challenges people may face. In the hotel’s reception they have sensory backpacks and noise cancelling headphones for guests and staff.

Victoria highlights: “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.”

As part of their development, they are opening a unique micro distillery, brewery and visitor centre – Uile Bheist. The distillery is almost completely powered by solar power and water from the River Ness via their energy centre, the first of its kind in Scotland. This will achieve the net zero objective and result in savings of over 250 tonnes of carbon emissions.