The groundbreaking mentoring programme, launched by the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) under its new Mentoring Trust, is now well under way with the first individuals participating in the high-profile industry initiative already benefiting from one-to-one sessions with their mentors.

Among the first batch of 'mentees' are Stuart Harrison (pictured), senior grocery buyer at JW Filshill; Paul Dickson, area manager, Booker; and Waqas Khwaja, system developer at United Wholesale (Scotland). The three have been meeting with their mentors on a regular basis and the initial feedback from everyone participating in the process has been extremely positive.

Stuart Harrison, who is being mentored by former ABInBev executive Scott MacDonald, says his confidence has grown and he has changed the way he approaches his job as a direct result of participating in the scheme. "I've now had seven sessions with Scott and I'm really surprised how much my confidence has grown in such a short time," he commented.

"It has completely changed my everyday working life," he added. "The first two meetings were all about making me become more efficient which was great as this has allowed me to spend all my time on buying rather than dealing with issues that others can resolve. It's never a case of Scott telling me what to do, it's about him making me realise what needs to be done."

According to MacDonald, now business development director at Glasgow-based Sovereign Steels, Harrison's "enthusiasm, willingness to learn and general attitude towards the programme" is outstanding. "We've met in person monthly since January and are in contact by phone and email between meetings," he said. "I believe the true value of the programme can only be identified by Stuart but from my perspective I feel it is also developing me as a person, which I'm very grateful for."

Booker's Paul Dickson, who is being mentored by wholesale industry stalwart and ex-SWA president Graham Benson, said: "The main change to my everyday working life is not so much in the actions I take but more in the way that I look at my business with a new perspective.

"This has given me the opportunity to make choices that I would not have seen before and has been a benefit as my mentor is aware of the specific challenges we face within the wholesale business and has the experience of successfully dealing with these."

Another mentor is Christian Barden, head of sales at Cott Beverages. So far, he has spent five hours of face-to face time with his mentee, Waqas Khwaja, system developer at United Wholesale (Scotland), and says that he is "working with someone who really wants to develop".

The much-lauded mentoring programme is being delivered by Anna West, principal consultant at 121 HR Solutions, the SWA's training partner. She commented: "We are delighted at the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the mentees and mentors to date. The successes so far are attributable to all of those involved in this structured process and reflect the continuing support and vision of the SWA."

A new mentee - Atif Rashid of Glasgow-based Alfa Wholesale - will shortly embark on the programme, mentored by the Kinross-based retail expert, David Sands. A further three individuals have also been accepted onto the programme and will be matched with mentors in due course.

Kate Salmon, executive director of the SWA, said: "We're delighted with the way in which our mentoring programme is progressing. It's all about motivating and developing our industry's emerging talent in the key areas of buying, sales development and management.

"Our Mentoring Trust is providing unique development opportunities for employees of SWA member organisations who have a drive for ambition within the industry, with the programme structured to fit in around business needs, and structured goals and objectives set.

"At our annual conference in June, our outgoing president, George Benson, said that if we have the right people with the right attitude and the right skills to create a truly world-class industry, we will be ahead of the game. What's more, our investment in the Mentoring Trust will be evident to our members as they see their emerging talent develop and grow."

The SWA is keen to hear from wholesalers who would like an employee to be considered for the mentoring programme. Similarly, the trade association would be delighted to speak to prospective mentors.