SCOTS WHO have made it overseas are visiting their old schools to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit among young pupils.
A former pupil of Buckhaven High in Fife, Derek Blackwood went back to his alma mater last month to help pupils with the Make It In Scotland Manufactur-ing Challenge.
Mr Blackwood is President Americas for Wood Group Engine-ering and Production Services and lives in Houston, Texas. He is one of a growing international network of high-flying expatriates who have joined the Scottish Enterprise Globalscot initiative to provide support for Scottish industry and education. He was recently awarded an OBE for his contribution.
The Make It In Scotland challenge is organised by Careers Scotland and aimed at encouraging awareness of the opportunities in the manufacturing sector. It used to take the form of a roadshow with representation from companies throughout the country, but is now run as a competition to see which school team can come up with the best research project and presentation about manufacturing in their local area.
Mr Blackwood selected the winning team to go forward to represent Buckhaven in the next stage of the competition and gave some inspiration from the sidelines.
S2 pupils were required to investigate an industry and find out about it, including what skills and qualities it would be looking for. "And hopefully it got across the message of the generic skills every industry would be looking for," adds Karen Small, the principal teacher of guidance at Buckhaven, who organised this heat.
"It was a school-based project where they were to investigate the industry and then present their findings to their peers. We looked at Rolls-Royce, which has a local connection here, and we also looked at it UK-wide and globally.
"The pupils were surprised at the local connection and were encouraged by the skills the company were saying they wanted, in terms of not just academic, but teamwork and independent thought," says Mrs Small. "A lot of kids don't think of the skills; they think 'Oh I'll not get this job if I don't have a Higher in such and such' and really it's generic skills a lot of companies are looking for."
Pupils had two class periods to work on their investigations and a further two weeks to cover additional research and prepare their PowerPoint presentation.
Mr Blackwood's presence had given them a great boost, which showed in their work. "It's amazing with that extra bit of enthusiasm how much more was produced," Mrs Smith says. "In a short space of time they had picked an industry, researched it and presented it to their peers. And for second years, some of whom are only 13, that was quite an achievement."
She thought the Globalscot initiative was a fantastic system which proved inspirational for the pupils: "Derek Blackwood's presence was a huge motivational factor - to see someone from their area who really has made it, who has the lifestyle, has the travelling and who really has pushed themselves forward."
George Maxwell, the Careers Scotland manager, says: "In my area of Careers Scotland, we've got the oil sector up in Aberdeen which is very strong, so there's an emphasis there on the oil and gas and engineering sectors.
"Food and drink is an important manufacturing sector, and in Fife engineering is still an important sector for us. So it's all about raising awareness generally."
Derek Blackwood was amazed by the enthusiasm and abilities of the pupils during the challenge. "I'm sure that the pupils I met at Buckhaven High are much more adept at this kind of thing than I and my classmates were at that age," he said.
Old school ties
Globalscots is a world-wide network of more than 900 Scots overseas with strong ties to home, who have been invited to sign up to help Scottish firms develop their business.
Globalscots in schools is part of this Scottish Enterprise venture, aimed at raising the aspirations of youngsters. Many Globalscots form links with their old schools, and their involvement will include visits where they give motivational talks or take part in school activities with pupils.
They may also support enterprise in education activities, provide career information about their own field, promote enterprising attitudes and provide role models for young Scots.
To find out more about Globalscots, schools can contact their local Careers Scotland representative or log onto www.globalscots.com