Arnold Clark’s apprentice recruitment manager, Suzanne Sherry said she still gets a kick out of seeing her recruits develop.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
Suzanne Sherry: I manage a team of people who are responsible for recruiting up to 300 apprentices for the Arnold Clark Group across the UK. To facilitate this, we run testing sessions, go out and talk to schools and organise careers events. We have to stay in touch with as many organisations that work with young people as we can. It is about making sure that people have as much information as possible to make informed career choices.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
Sherry: I still don’t think there is enough awareness about apprenticeships and their benefits. Many young people may feel they have already decided that they are going to go to university without considering all the options available.
People think apprenticeships are all about trades, like being a builder, a joiner, or a mechanic. They don’t understand the diverse roles available. We have parts advisers, customer service advisers, business admin and IT help desk roles, as well as the more ‘traditional’ apprenticeships, such as vehicle technicians, spray painters and body repairers. We even have graduate apprenticeships with software developers.
There is also a lack of knowledge about the processes. People know when they have to apply for college or university, but the message isn’t getting out about when to apply for apprenticeships.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Sherry: We’ve invested a huge amount this year with the launch of our interactive apprentice vehicle. We are taking this van out to schools and events. Inside, it showcases the different types of apprenticeships that we do in a fun and interactive way. It’s a more engaging way to speak to young people and raise their interest rather than standing behind a table with some leaflets.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
Sherry: I come from a background of 18 years working in a bank. After that, I came into an administration role at Arnold Clark. There was a discussion about the business having someone who would liaise with the schools. We had offered work experience to young people in the past, but there wasn’t a proper business model. When I was approached about the role, I was absolutely up for the challenge. I liked the fact that it was starting afresh and I was able to create the processes. After 10 months, I was asked to manage the apprenticeship recruitment side of it, too. It was a natural progression for me. If we have people in work experience, we want to progress them into an apprenticeship.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
sherry: You need to have a passion for helping young people into jobs. I love the fact that you sit down to interview somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the subject, but we can give them the tips they need to get through the recruitment process. I want that young person to come in and tell me their story and I want to see their journey. Some of them are coming into apprenticeships at just 16 years old and it’s a big, life-changing situation for them. I can reassure them and their parents that, as an employer, we are here to nurture them. Our vision is to keep them in our business. If we take in an apprentice, we want to retain them in our business after they qualify.
What drives you?
Turning up at branches and meeting the people I have recruited and seeing them develop.
What’s your favourite app?
LinkedIn is the one I look at every morning and every night. It’s vital from a networking point of view.
How do you relax?
There’s nothing I like more than spending time with my family. I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter at home, so spending time with her is my favourite thing to do.