Scott Livingstone, HR Director at Chivas Brothers, discusses the need to introduce graduate programmes which offer real responsibility from day one.

Graduate programmes are a great way to start full-time employment as they provide a strong level of support as candidates embark on their careers, while also equipping them with the necessary skills for the future.

At the same time there are many benefits for employers too. Introducing a robust graduate programme can really add value to a business. Not only do they help to attract new talent, graduates start to learn sector specific skills from day one and can often bring new ideas and a fresh outlook which can inject energy into the existing workforce.

This is especially beneficial for the spirits industry. Our Scotch whisky and premium gin portfolio has such a long-standing history and we are always on the lookout for new ideas to help connect and inspire our customers. That’s why, every year, we seek passionate, enthusiastic and entrepreneurial graduates to join our International Graduate Brand Ambassador programme. Our two-year course sets graduates off on an international career where they will promote our portfolio of Scotch whisky and premium gin brands in some of the most dynamic countries in the world.

Graduates overseas

We believe there is real value in starting a career overseas. Graduates are able to finesse their language skills, create an international network of contacts, and gain a diverse range of skills by understanding how the business operates from a global perspective. On top of that, there are often opportunities to travel and become fully immersed in a new culture and business. We currently have 45 ambassadors based in 25 countries around the world and each of them will learn the key skills needed to develop a long-term career in the drinks industry.

We believe all businesses should make sure their graduates become a key part of their team. At Chivas Brothers, we rely on them to inspire and engage people about our brands including the renowned Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, The Glenlivet and Beefeater Gin. Our graduates play a vital role in continuing to increase visibility amongst both consumers and the trade, by hosting education and tasting sessions and by delivering innovative marketing and PR campaigns which bring our brand stories to life.

The key to success in any graduate programme is being able to offer the candidates real responsibility from day one. The global drinks industry is dynamic and fast-paced, and candidates should be challenged to deliver right from the start, while also being given the right support and training to thrive in their roles. In this way, they can create their own ‘defining moments’ – whether it’s delivering a presentation in Spanish to local whisky experts or watching their product take pride of place in a top bar in New York.

Case studies

For example, one of our graduates, Alan Clark, recently joined our team in India and is responsible for helping to promote Ballantine’s to both consumers and the trade. In his second week, he helped to run a tasting event in front of a large group of whisky enthusiasts. It was a great success and a real defining moment for him, as he was able to put all of the knowledge and skills he had learned during training into practice.

Another of our graduates, Claire McEvinney, spent two years as a Graduate Brand Ambassador for Beefeater in Madrid, Spain. There she helped to attract bartenders to enter Beefeater’s global competition MIXLDN. Now she’s based in London as part of the global Beefeater Marketing team and has been able to use her international knowledge and experience to add value to the team.

All of these experiences are designed to help graduates develop both personally and professionally, and many become more confident and more accomplished as a result. Equally, as an employer, it provides an opportunity to develop a skilled workforce for the future and we find our International Graduate Programme offers a great stepping-stone for those looking to develop a lifelong career in the drinks industry.

There are many benefits to offering a graduate programme but it’s important for employers to establish these with both the graduates and their future workforce needs in mind. Introducing a graduate programme is not enough. These programmes need to offer real value for both the graduates and the company by providing the right skills and experience to develop into a long-term career.