18th August 2023

It’s hard to believe it is late summer already and once again hundreds of teenagers across the nation have received their exam results. To coincide with the day when the Scottish Qualification Authority notifies students of their grades, Developing the Young Workforce has for several years run a national campaign called #NoWrongPath. The #NoWrongPath social media campaign aims to inspire and reassure young people who may be disappointed with their results by highlighting the cases of people in interesting and important jobs across a range of sectors who have not taken conventional paths to reach their goal.

The campaign’s key message is that exams are not the be all and end all and that your options need not diminish because you didn’t get the desired grades. #NoWrongPath shows young people that, whatever their grades, they are not necessarily the key to unlocking future success and that there are myriad options available to them.

As hosts of DYW North Highland, Caithness Chamber of Commerce is passionate about helping young people achieve their potential. Indeed, we have just welcomed back our 12 young adults from their Sail Training Shetland experience with the Tall Ships Races.  These placements were made possible through sponsorship from DYW North Highland, Pentland Floating Offshore Wind and Scrabster Harbour.

  • Sail Trainnees, part of the crew on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl part of the Tall Ships Races 2023
    Sail Trainnees, part of the crew on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl part of the Tall Ships Races 2023

The Sail Training initiative is designed to inspire self-confidence and teamwork, enabling participants to confront many demanding challenges, both physical and emotional. The skills and attributes achieved on board are designed to enhance their employability skills through hands-on learning and real-life experience.

Skills are something we learn through experience and that we can apply to things we do. We might pick these up at school, work, during activities, by spending time with our family and friends, or initiatives like the Sail Training.

By all accounts, the feedback received from the young people and their parents is that the Sail Training delivered just that.

So, my advice to young people is grasp every opportunity available to build your confidence and learn new skills.  Qualifications are not the be and end all.  There are many other opportunities to build your skills and routes to employment.  Get in touch with DYW North Highland to find out how. Email skills@caithnesschamber.com or phone 01847 890076 and ask for the DYW team.

  • Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce
    Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce

View from the Board, Alex MacDonald, Co-Founder & COO at North Point Distillery.

From Canada to the Highlands of Scotland, my career path has changed as much as the scenery! When I was younger, I fully intended to be one of two things: a doctor or a comedian. This might have been spurred on by a fascination with Robin Williams and his movie based on the true story of Patch Adams, The Comedic Doctor.

Through my high school years in Canada, I found my skills were not suited to the medical field (mostly due to a disdain for Chemistry) and chose a different path. I always looked up to my father and his international adventures in business, so I decided to try my hand at business. After studying Business and Management at the University of St. Andrews, I was headhunted into a large corporate specialising in the government and public sector division. At this point, I had already cut my teeth in the public sector, working in the summers under my father’s instruction. The large corporate life taught me several lessons about discipline, working as part of a team, and understanding one’s role in the large scheme of things. I also learnt I was not a big fan of big companies!

From there, I decided that Tech Start-ups was the patch of ‘greener grass’ where I belonged. I spoke to recruiters, interviewed a lot, kept learning skills to apply to this new avenue and eventually landed a National Account Manager role in a Tech Start-Up. This role was engaging, it pushed me to travel around the country, and I started to shape skills of independent decision-making, negotiation, and communication. The role focused heavily on working with Government which was a safe place for me and one I continued to enjoy. This role allowed me to land my next role, as I was consistently presenting at Tech Summits for Amazon, KPMG, PWC, and Microsoft. After one presentation, I was approached by a founder of a new and growing cybersecurity company interested in my skills; they did not care about my lack of cybersecurity experience.

  • Alex MacDonald, Co-Founder & COO at North Point Distillery
    Alex MacDonald, Co-Founder & COO at North Point Distillery

After working with this cybersecurity company for about two years, travelling around the world for most of my time, I found my repertoire of skills had been significantly bolstered. So much so that I decided to find a consulting company that helped other small businesses scale and grow. I founded this business with my current co-founder Struan Mackie, and this is where my life and career took a rapid left turn (in a good way).

Struan and I connected over many things. Sports, business, and even the occasional whisky dram. From this shared passion, we decided to take the leap of faith in 2019/2020 and found our distillery in the highlands of Scotland. We now run one of the fastest-growing and most award-winning craft distilleries in the UK.

To those looking at what path you want to take, do not be rigid in your approach. Follow your skills, and your passion will be unveiled. All too often, people try to go down the path that is expected of them. So make sure to collect skills, listen, learn, revise, make mistakes, and eventually, you will find yourself in the career you truly belong in.

Got a good news story you’d like to share? Get in touch with the Chamber today!

E: info@caithnesschamber.com
T: 01847 890076