Why Working at Chandlers Mini & BMW is different to anywhere else
Sussex Skills Solutions is a partnership between Sussex Downs College and Sussex Coast College Hastings, providing skills training and apprenticeships across the region. Sussex Skills Solutions helps adults of all ages progress in the workplace via their apprenticeship programme. One company Sussex Skills Solutions works closely with is Chandler’s BMW & Mini, Hailsham, who, in 2017, looked to recruit a handful of apprentices, training them in house as they gained a qualification at the same time.
Chandlers really take the time to talk to College students about apprenticeship opportunities within the company. These students may study a vocational course in Motor Vehicle or an A level in Business or Economics.
“When people think about working for a car brand they immediately think of technicians and salespeople,” comments Toby Burton, Head of Business at Chandlers in Hailsham. “There are many roles within the company such as Product Geniuses, Service Managers, Parts Advisors, and various departments including HR, Payroll and Bodyshop Admin.”
Moya Gentle, HR Business Partner for Group 1 Automative, part of Chandlers BMW, adds: “We invest a lot into our apprentices, so it’s very much in our interest to shape the apprenticeship around the students’ strengths and make it work out.”
What makes Chandlers and their relationship with the College stand out from the crowd is their proactive approach in finding and training their future workforce. In 2017 Chandlers looked to recruit eight apprentices across its Hailsham and Brighton centres, with specialised studying through a Business Administration course at Sussex Downs College. The apprentices will achieve a Level 3 Customer Services qualification and will rotate throughout various roles in the centre, deciding on a department and role best suited to them by the end of their course.
“Students often ask whether they have a job at the end of their apprenticeship, and with Chandlers the answer is yes. “The apprenticeship offered is a permanent role,” Moya explains. “Like any job role, if you turn up, work hard, study hard and perform well, then you get to keep the job - the same for any position in any company.”
Billy Cleaver completed his apprenticeship with Chandlers in 2017. His first insight into the company was through a showcase day. “Chandlers are very keen to get people learning,” he says. “If you’re not given the tools, the knowledge and the opportunity to learn about what you’re doing at work, then you can’t really be expected to achieve as much. At a young age you’ve got to see this as an open opportunity. It helps you mature from a child to a young adult. I’ve changed so much since starting the apprenticeship. It builds you and you gain confidence.
“I was studying double Business. My first actual insight into Chandlers in Hailsham was when we went for a business tour around the dealership. We explored the different departments and how the business was run. Towards the end we discussed the opportunities the dealership had for Business students at the time. At that time I thought it would be amazing but wasn’t ideal with coursework and exams on the horizon. Then the head of the Business department came to me and said the opportunity was there for an interview for a part-time receptionist job at Chandlers Hailsham. I saw it as an opportunity to get my foot into the door and I went for it. It was my first proper interview. It’s gone so quickly since then; in my eyes I’ve come so far. University was in mind but they offered me a full time job in Customer Service and we discussed the apprenticeship as well. As well as completing the apprenticeship I have also been training as a Product Genius, so I’ve been doing my apprenticeship coursework, and am also going off to the Mini Academy. There are brilliant training programmes we can do inside the business as well. Recently I’ve been doing an introduction to sales training.
“It took a while to adapt to the study/work balance, as I’d gone from doing full-time coursework, where it’s your only reason to be there, to now, where I’m in an environment where your professionalism has to be there, as does your quality of customer service, so you’ve got all these things to think about.
“I’ve got the support I need to finish the coursework required for the apprenticeship. My line manager helped me out as well. I’ve been given time to finish my coursework. My work’s been really productive and I’m finding I can achieve good quality work.
“In an apprenticeship the things you learn are directly relevant to your work – such as business innovation and how your customer service quality affects that. The sales course I completed looked at how you approach a customer and how you come across – a skill vital for the workplace.