Hamish Hutcheson being presented with his Modern Apprenticeship cerificates by (left) Elaine Forgan of Goal Training wacthed by We Are Zest owner Lisa Cathro.

A North-East Fife man living on the autism spectrum is planning a career in hospitality management rather than a life limited to unpaid volunteering or low-skill jobs thanks to completing a second Modern Apprenticeship at a St Andrews social enterprise café.

Hamish Hutcheson (23), from Wormit, completed the ‘supported’ SVQ3 Modern Apprenticeship in Hospitality Supervision & Leadership Modern Apprenticeship over two years while working at Zest on South Street.

The self-funding ethical café provides training and paid work for people with additional support needs to help them learn the work skills required to maintain or gain meaningful employment. Without those skills many end up limited to unpaid or low-skill jobs for the rest of their lives. Zest’s work was recently recognised with Investors in Young People status for the second time.

The work needed to achieve the core skills required for the SVQ – including communication, working with others, problem-solving and numeracy – has also been life-changing for Hamish by improving his everyday life skills and ability to cope in a fast-paced environment.

While working on it, Hamish became responsible for looking after customers, making food and hot drinks, helping his colleagues, coaching new staff and making sure everyone did everything correctly – challenging tasks for many, but particularly for someone on the autism spectrum.


Activities included teaching new staff how to serve customers at the till, make some of the specialty coffee preparation and two-stage cleaning to ensure high food hygiene standards are maintained by all, as well as being responsible for cashing up for his numeracy core skill. Hamish also created new ideas for training.

Learning about coffee helped Hamish with his work on the SVQ core skills e.g. his numeracy was enhanced by learning about different coffee brewing recipes to get the best flavour results. Similarly, coffee learning boosted his knowledge of geography and science.

Now Hamish plans to continue helping to coach new staff and people on work placements at Zest as well as keep improving his latte art and coffee knowledge. With further experience to reinforce his new skills, he can now supervise shifts at Zest.

Previously, the former Madras College pupil attended Fife College’s Supported Needs Programmes at the Cupar campus in 2013-14 and achieved a National Progression Award in Enterprise and Employability, which prepared him for starting a work placement in the hospitality sector.


Soon after, Hamish and his parents agreed with Zest owner Lisa Cathro that he do a placement there, organised in partnership with ENABLE Scotland. It was so successful Lisa offered Hamish a paid position for 15 hours a week, which was later extended to 25 hours. Hamish then went on to complete an SVQ2 Food & Beverage Modern Apprenticeship in April 2016.

His mum Fiona explains that the supported apprenticeship has meant more than career advancement for Hamish: “Hamish’s job and apprenticeship with Zest has been a real godsend – not just for Hamish, but for our whole family.

“We always believed that, given the right opportunity and support, Hamish would make a loyal and conscientious employee and be an asset to his employer. Lisa has provided that opportunity and support in spades and in return Hamish has become that employee who makes a valuable contribution to the workplace we believed he could be. He’s been with Lisa and Zest for more than four years and we believe he’s now one of the longer-serving members of staff!

“It’s not all been plain sailing – Hamish can sometimes struggle with situations like workplace banter and tricky customers, but with the understanding and perseverance of the Zest team, in particular Lisa and Caroline, Hamish has flourished and continues to make progress. To see Hamish enjoy his first Christmas night out with co-workers was a real high point in our rollercoaster journey of life with a family member on the autistic spectrum.

“All organisations should consider employing someone like Hamish with additional support needs as there is a great need. Handled correctly by both sides, this need not be a burden. Indeed, there are clear benefits to both employer and employee, with the resulting relationship so rewarding for all concerned.”


Hamish’s SVQ assessor, Elaine Forgan of Goal Training, is full of praise for him: “Hamish is a special young man who, despite drawbacks, threw himself wholeheartedly into the unknown challenge of completing not only an SVQ2 Food & Beverage Modern Apprenticeship but also an SVQ3 Hospitality Supervision & Leadership Modern Apprenticeship.

“Hamish worked enthusiastically and willingly on every challenge. He never once said ‘I can’t’. Hamish has grown and learned so many new skills since joining Zest but, more than that, he’s learned how to deal with colleagues and customers in a helpful, co-operative and obliging way.”

Lisa Cathro adds: “We’re thrilled to see Hamish achieve so much of his potential through these Modern Apprenticeships with our support. We’re great believers in apprenticeships and have supported staff through more than 10 Modern Apprenticeships to date. I’m also doing a Graduate Apprenticeship at the University of Dundee myself!”

As for Hamish, he says: “I am delighted – as I put a lot of effort into my course. Everyone at Zest is really encouraging and thoughtful.”

Apprenticeships are designed to tackle potential skills gaps, and support new or existing employees to develop. Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Scotland’s national skills body, administers the funding for apprenticeships training, on behalf of the Scottish Government.

SDS Chief Executive Damien Yeates commented: “Young people like Hamish and his employer show how work-based learning is providing the skills needed for a successful Scotland.

“The theme for this year is ‘Skills for the Future’ which recognises the importance of investing in our workforce. We want more people and businesses across Scotland to benefit from the growing number of opportunities available. There’s never been a better time to get involved in apprenticeships.”

Scottish Apprenticeship Week runs from March 4 to 8. For details of the different kinds of apprenticeship available, go to www.apprenticeships.scot.