Shooting for the moon...

Valerie Whyte Mackay22Valerie McMurtrie, HR Director of renowned Scottish whisky brand Whyte and Mackay, explains why their partnership with The Outward Bound Trust is much more than just a tick in the companies CSR box.

Scotland's famous whisky has legions of fans around the world, but perhaps one of the less well known facts about the brand is the way it helps young Scots to develop key life skills. The help comes in the form of the company’s support for The Trust, which allows it to offer young people the opportunity to test themselves to the limit on its adventure courses in challenging outdoor environments.

Valerie explains… "We’ve been working with The Trust for the past nine years and our involvement has not only benefitted young Scots but also had a positive impact on our own employees. We believe it has encouraged both groups to gain confidence and acquire new leadership abilities.

Whyte and Mackay chose to work with The Trust because of the synergy between its ethos and ours, which says that leadership is about understanding yourself and your limits and aiming high and hitting high. But also significant was the fact that it allowed us to build stronger links with local communities in Invergordon, where our grain distillery employs 140 people, and Falkirk where our nearby bottling plant in Grangemouth has 180 staff.

We've donated in excess of £135,000 to The Trust over the last nine years and that has enabled hundreds of young people from Invergordon Academy and Falkirk High School to attend courses at its Loch Eil Centre near Fort William. Both schools are in areas of significant economic and social deprivation, so supporting and encouraging students to feel more confident and to aim high is especially important for their future success in life.

Loch Eil Blog 2The benefits of the courses, in particular improved resilience, confidence and team working abilities, are well recognised. Michael Aitchison, Deputy Head Teacher at Invergordon Academy, has told me that students tend to be more focused on their studies and aim for higher goals after facing and overcoming new challenges."

Stuart Kelly, Deputy Head Teacher at Falkirk High, has a similar view about the way students react to the courses. He says that although they benefit individual students in different ways, in general they prepare them for life after school, show them how to work effectively with others and give them the confidence to make positive decisions. At the same time they help them to re-engage with learning.

"The courses also have a huge impact on our own employees who attend as mentors. None of them  return from these courses the same. What stands out most is the incredible confidence boost they gain from the experience. Many of us doing our day to day jobs can forget what we are capable of, can forget our dreams. These experiences help staff to get reconnect with their dreams and realise they can 'shoot for the moon' if they so choose.

So our partnership with The Outward bound Trust isn’t just a 'charitable' enterprise or a tick in the company’s CSR box but is about giving opportunities to young people in our communities. It’s also about training and developing our own staff and providing them with the chance to reassess their abilities and strive to do better. We feel that we at Whyte and Mackay and The Trust have a genuine shared view on how best to capture the talent of young people and support them to become the leaders of the future."

To find out how your organisation could work in partnership with The Trust to benefit local schools contact Scottish Director Martin Davidson at martin.davidson@outwardbound.org.uk or call 0141 413 0244.