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Graduate schemes: Bentley Motors Limited - part 2

Part two of our interview with one of Bentley's graduate sucess stories. In this section we have a look how education has impacted on Claire Hawkins career and how she chooses graduates to follow in her footsteps.

Do you think your experiences have transferred into your career?

Definitely. I learnt some really great skills at university including presentation, communication and project management skills.  I may not have studied a HR degree but I’ve been able to utilise my learnings, particularly around communication, and make sure not only that I can get the most out of my career, but help the next generation of Bentley employees get the most out of theirs as well.

If I were to pick one key experience, it would be interacting with external businesses. It gave me a good awareness of the world of business and made the transition a smoother one for me.


Do you think that academia makes you more prepared for the world of work?

Academia equips you with the technical skills and knowledge in a certain field but this needs to be combined with ‘real life’ work experience.  Universities have taken huge steps over recent years to increase the focus on work experience and transferable skills and I would encourage more students to take up industrial placement years or work experience internships to develop their understanding of how theory relates to reality.

Based on your experiences of academia and the world of work what is the best piece of advice that you could give a graduate?

Always aim to work to the best of your ability and then it becomes second nature. In addition, try and get as much relevant work experience as possible to add to your CV. Placements in your chosen field of study are best but if you can’t get this don’t forget that another type of job can be just as beneficial in demonstrating skills such as problem solving, communication and influencing skills.

What are the main attributes of a graduate that you look for?

Passion, drive, and integrity. At Bentley we are looking for exceptional candidates who aren’t afraid to challenge and who recognise the importance of “right first time” quality and continuous improvement.  Our graduates will develop into our future leaders and technical experts and will help drive our business to meet long-term business goals.

Are these attributes being met with graduates who are leaving university and applying for your graduate schemes?

We’re all aware that competition for graduate jobs has increased. The graduates that are successful at securing placements at Bentley are those that have sought out relevant work experience, can identify how they will transfer their skills to the workplace and that have taken the time to understand the industry and the challenges and opportunities for our business in the years ahead.

We have a difficult task, choosing from a high level of extremely competent candidates, and that’s where that extra mile makes the difference; getting under the skin of the business and showing a real understanding of the industry. It’s good to see so many candidates are happy to do their research but you can never be over prepared!

If there is a short fall in skills what areas would you perceive these to be in?

The success of British Manufacturing and Engineering is often publicised but it is recognised within the UK that we have a shortage of Engineers, particularly women entering the industry.  At Bentley we continue to invest in our Manufacturing and Engineering facilities and there is huge potential for graduates to develop their careers into Senior Management roles within Production, Logistics, Production Planning and Engineering.  I am particularly determined to encourage more females to see the Manufacturing industry as a career choice and will be working hard over the next 12 months to promote opportunities and career paths available.

What skills and experience are the most beneficial from university?

The life skills that students gain at university are invaluable. Time management, PC skills, problem solving, team working, presentation and communication skills are all transferable to the workplace.  The confidence of working with others also enables graduates to settle in well.

Tell us about the graduate schemes that Bentley offers?

Bentley offers a two-year graduate scheme across various departments. Each year we work with our managers to understand their organisational structures and succession planning so that we can determine where trainees can develop best and really add value.  Typically, our programmes are placed within Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchase, Quality, Sales & Marketing, Finance, IT, and HR.  We treat every graduate as an individual and we encourage our graduates to get involved in planning their programme and the placements that they wish to undertake. In addition to work placements, all of our trainees develop their team working, presentation, communication, networking and organisation skills through cross functional business projects, charity activities and school liaison events.

How are these managed?

My role is part of a dedicated Recruitment and Talent Management team focused on recruiting exceptional people into our business and ensuring that we develop talent from day one and continue to do so. Each graduate has a Sponsoring Manager from their home department that will support and guide them through their programme. The trainee group is an excellent business network and group meetings are held each month to network, share knowledge and update on group projects. In addition, our graduates often identify mentors from across the business to support them with professional accreditations or career progression.

Have they changed over the years, regarding the recession and changing global trends?

Bentley has remained committed to our investment in trainees and our graduate and undergraduate trainee numbers have been growing rather than declining. We have seen increased sales in 2012 continuing into 2013 and we now work towards our 2018 strategy. Our focus is on quality and continuous improvement and our trainees will play a part in driving the business forward to meet its goals.

What would you say to a graduate who is thinking of applying for one of the graduate schemes Bentley offers?

Be prepared. Be passionate. Be proactive. Take time to understand the industry and don’t just consider the obvious roles. We recruit across all areas of our business and we are committed to supporting our trainees to reach their potential. Pay attention to the application form – you never have a second chance to make a first impression so make it count.