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Diageo GB on Responsible Drinking, Employability & Brexit

An important part of serving beer is knowing when to STOP serving beer

While I was exploring the home of whisky during August and September, I was fortunate enough to make a good friend who worked with Diageo. Although I really enjoyed our gin nights, I was eager to learn more about the impact initiatives run by a group as big as Diageo. And so I was introduced to Nicola Reid, a Corporate Social Responsibility Manager. Nicola kindly agreed to meet with me and I had such a lovely time as I got know more about her work with Diageo and her thoughts on sustainable impact.

Meeting Nicola Reid

Nicola manages the Learning for Life Initiative across Great Britain and Europe, with Scotland introducing the programme in 2014. Through my conversation with Nicola, I was in awe of how strongly the programme collaborates with other corporates and businesses. I also learnt a great deal about the impact of Brexit on the hospitality industry in Scotland.


Although Scotland may not know youth unemployment as South Africa does, plenty of young people across Scotland really do struggle with finding and maintaining employment due to lack of experience, qualification and soft skills such as confidence, professionalism and commitment. 2017 has fortunately seen a decline in youth unemployment in Scotland as it currently sits at 4.4% (compared to South Africa’s increased unemployment rate which is currently 55.90%). To read more about UK unemployment, click here.

Cocktail Mixing Class

The Diageo Learning for Life Programme is open to unemployed youth from 18 – 28 years old. The programme runs over 6 weeks across various Diageo operational locations. The first 4 weeks of the programme brings thorough employability and hospitality skills such as customer service, communication and of course, cocktail mixing. Soft skills development is strongly facilitated by the programmes partners, Springboard Charity and Ayrshire College where Diageo delivers the hard skills; their Cocktail Masterclass and bartending skills.  The remaining two weeks of the programme sees the trainees being placed with one of 1180 businesses across Great Britain, where they apply what they have learnt and gain some real-life experience in a fully operational bar or restaurant.

These 1180 partners also recruit their staff from the Learning for Life Programme, which ensures sustainability to the impact of Diageo’s work with young people.

DrinkIQ and the reach of it’s impact

Proud graduates are ready for the hospitality industry

In Scotland, alcohol (a highly addictive and easily accessible substance) is commonly consumed by teenagers and youth. In 2013, 42% of 16 – 24 years olds report drinking over the recommended daily and weekly limits (for more statistics on alcohol consumption in Scotland, click here). In South Africa, 60% of teenagers (13 – 18) across various sectors have been drunk. Alcohol consumption among young people is a common problem across much of society. So you may be think why on earth would Diageo TEACH young people on how mix the perfect cocktail? I absolutely love that a significant part of the programme brings DrinkIQ to it’s particpants.

Through DrinkIQ, Diageo educates it’s trainees on drinking responsibility and works at breaking the desire for young people to binge drink (a big problem in Scotland), but rather learn how to appreciate various alcohols and consume them responsibly and with a sophisticated tongue. As they produce some of the worlds most renowned alcohol, Diageo recongises an inherent responsibility to advocate for safe consumption. Their DrinkIQ platform is available to the public and not just to programme trainees. The impact of shifting the mindset on alcohol consumption reaches far beyond the programme, as the young trainees move into the working world and influence other young people around them. DrinkIQ changes the paradigms on ‘cool’ and acceptable alcohol consumption.

An important part of serving beer is knowing when to STOP serving beer

The Power of Partnerships

As I listened to Nicola describe the programme’s process and impact, one of the most evident strengths of this initiative is it’s collaboration with other corporates and businesses, for a common purpose. Through collaboration and partnerships, the Learning for Life Programme is able to have the impact it currently does (recently claiming the IGD Employability Award 2017). I’ve already mentioned the great partnerships that exist to deliver the actual programme (The Springboard Charity and Ayrshire College), but there are another 1180 businesses that have partnered with this programme to ensure it’s impact is real.

The key to partnerships like this is that they are mutually beneficial – which in this case, they most definitely are. Almost 1200  hospitality business across the UK are able to recruit trained and experienced staff whereas Learning for Life are able to ensure secure employment to follow their skills development programme.

Movement to Work, founded by the CEO of M&S has set an example for corporates to get involved in the fight against unemployment for their young people and it really is a ‘movement’. A movement implies a change of collective behavior which has seen corporates taking a more active responsibility and role in addressing a difficult social and economic issue. Movement to Work, along with the Department of Work and Pensions refer and support the training of young people through the Diageo Learning for Life Programme.

And what’s this about Brexit?

One of the greatest differences about living in Scotland, compared to my home of South Africa, was the political and economic headlines that consume their headlines. At home, I struggle to keep up with the implications of something like Brexit on any of the affected countries, as I’m consumed by far more immediate concerns, such as government corruption, increasing crime rates and the current drought (Cape Town). So I was really interested to hear Nicola’s feedback on Brexit, the hospitality industry of Scotland and what it would mean for Learning for Life.

As she explained it, it became unbelievably obvious but this is what I learnt; with Brexit, movement of workers from the EU will, in all likelihood, become more restricted and as the hospitality industry receives much of these immigrant workers a challenge to the Industry is presented.  Brexit presents a ‘triple threat’ as it will prohibit an influx of this much needed labour which means that Scotland is under pressure to produce its own hospitality employees, especially as Scotland predicts increased tourism through Brexit.

Typical with the nature of social enterprises and social impact – it thrives in political, economic and social hardships. The threat of Brexit enhances the value of Diageo’s Learning for Life initiative which may see it receive additional future support.

Nicola is about to embark on a new adventure of motherhood, although she’s adamant she’ll return to work due to her passion for what she does. I wish her all the best with her new adventures and have been grateful to get some insight into Diageo’s impact initiative in Great Britain.

To see what Diageo South Africa are up to with regards to impact, click here.

Social Agent
Social Agent
Social Impact Strategist and Consultant Social Entrepreneurship Programme Design Entrepreneur EQ/Initiative Development and Support South African - traveller

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