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by Robbie Drummond, CalMac
04 October 2023
Associate Feature: From the islands to you: The vital role ferry services play in sustaining Scotland’s coastal communities

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Associate Feature: From the islands to you: The vital role ferry services play in sustaining Scotland’s coastal communities

 Transporting over five million passengers over the course of around 136,000 sailings annually with our fleet of 35 vessels, CalMac provides a vital service for island communities.  Whether facilitating island commercial activity, enabling island life or giving tourists their first taste of the islands, our ferry services symbolise the essence of the islands. 

  We play a vital role in supporting island economies and account for this in every aspect of the service we provide by maintaining our core value of locality at the heart of everything we do. 

  Over 63% of our staff live and work within the network, bringing a wealth of local knowledge and connections, which makes an important contribution to the service we provide. We are committed to providing as many local career opportunities as possible, helping to sustain local economies by supporting people to remain within the islands. Many members of the same families are also part of the CalMac team and our reputation as a supportive employer means that many stay with us throughout their working lives. 

  Our efforts to ensure our people are recruited from all around the network continue. This has seen several senior management posts co-located around the network. Our Operations Director, Head of Operations, our three Area Operations Managers, and Fleet Management Director are all now network-based. 

  Another demonstration of our strong commitment to local careers is evidenced through our industry leading apprenticeship programmes. We run modern apprenticeship programmes in Project Management, Deck, Engine and Maritime hospitality, typically taking on 20 apprentices each year from our network communities.  We now employ 113 former apprentices in permanent positions with CalMac, while the remainder have moved on to other roles elsewhere. Also, every one of last year’s intake were from communities across the network. 

  We are active across our network communities promoting early careers at CalMac and within the sector. We continue to launch campaigns during Scottish Apprenticeship Week, sending out our Early Careers Brochure to 70 schools across our communities and delivering a social media apprenticeship campaign. 

  Providing customers with high quality, localised products is a major part of our retail strategy. Our retail purpose states that we work with local businesses to showcase what our region has to offer. 

  In working with island-based companies in retail, food and drink, we are also able to highlight to our passengers what’s in store for them once they arrive at their destination. 

  We’re attuned to the rapidly increasing consumer demand for locally and ethically sourced products, and we’ve forged relationships with 44 suppliers across the network. Maintaining a sense of provenance is important to us when selecting suppliers to feature; on our Outer Hebrides routes, for example, products include Harris Tweed bags, gin from the Isle of Harris distillery and family-run Stag Bakery’s Hebridean Baker biscuits. The Stornoway Black Pudding is a staple of CalMac’s daily breakfast offer, and Arran Cheese is a prime ingredient in our famous ‘CalMac and Cheese’. 

  Our retail team meets with existing suppliers and looks to source new suppliers to add to our roster, while dry dock overhauls taking place this year and next will allow us to refresh our retail areas, ensuring a varied customer experience. The introduction of bespoke special menus means a hyper-focus on using local, relevant products on each route. We also invite suppliers on board our vessels to promote their products to customers, giving them the opportunity to share the stories behind their businesses, and contextualising the origins of their products. 

  Prioritising local food, drink and other goods, and sourcing locally where we can, helps local businesses to thrive and reduces our environmental impact. 

 We are the key channel of support for commercial activity on the islands, and the places we serve are at the very heart of everything we do at CalMac. Supporting them is the highest priority for the organisation, and we are extremely proud of this responsibility.

This article is sponsored by CalMac


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