Graduate development programme drives SME growth

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Graduate development programme drives growth at Essex-based automotive company

When we talk about graduates at Bertrandt UK, we talk with enthusiasm. For us, graduates are our future. This may sound clichéd, but when the business you work for supports the giants of the European automotive industry such as BMW, Ford, Renault and VW, an industry built on the ingenuity of engineers, this statement sounds less contrived and wholly realistic.

The automotive engineering industry has changed rapidly over the last few years. During the 1970s and 80s, the UK had a strong manufacturing industry. As this declined and we became more of a service-led industry, we invested less in the education and development of engineers. However, as manufacturing has moved to the Far East and the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, China and India, the engineering aspect of the automotive industry in the UK has started to bounce back in a big way. We may not need people to work on the shop floor as we once did, but we do need people to design the products and engineer the solutions. Combine these factors with an ageing workforce and we have a global shortage of engineers on our hands.

Bertrandt UK is part of the Bertrandt Group, and currently employs around 100 people at its base in Basildon. We are a small automotive company that develops vehicles with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). We support the complete redevelopment of a vehicle, from the design and style of exterior features such as headlights, to interior features including seats and inter-electronics. We support a project before, during and after manufacture, including its launch phase to the public, providing our customer with the complete solution.

To meet the demands of our customers, we, like our competitors in the region, need high-calibre engineering graduates. We’re ambitious and are looking to expand our workforce over the next five years. We know there is so much work we can get, but we cannot meet the demand as we do not have the workforce ready.

There’s a plethora of grads on the market with generic engineering degrees that lack the necessary skill-set, the industry is looking for. That’s why we decided to partner with a university.

Over the years, we’ve approached a number of universities but it was not until we met with ARU that we started to get somewhere. Being a small employer, many universities do not see us as a serious partner, whereas ARU have been fab, proactive in talking to us and taking things forward.

Building a partnership with a local university is pivotal to us achieving our future growth strategy and the graduate development programme at Anglia Ruskin University offers a solution to our training and development needs.

The Graduate Development Programme has helped us compete with massive companies. We can show potential employees the tangible benefits of coming to work for us. We now have people who would rather come and work for us than some of our biggest competitors because we can talk to our employees on a personal, one-to-one basis. They get the right help that they need and do not feel like just another number. That’s perhaps one of the reasons for our success. Because we are small, and we look beyond the qualifications and get to know the person. We think differently and that’s our innovation. And now we are starting to reap the rewards. The GDP is unique and makes us different to our competitors in the region as they do not offer formal graduate training. We know our team, and have hired more graduates in the last year than we’ve ever hired before. It’s given them confidence and us a clearer focus.

Tom Stacey is Training Development Lead at Bertrandt UK and is responsible for the recruitment, training and development needs of employees including graduates. Tom was brought on board to help address our need for more experienced engineers and people qualified to work in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) sector. Tom has been instrumental in working alongside the university to develop each individual that goes through the programme and deliver results that make a real difference to our future.

The Graduate Development Programme (GDP) has been incredibly important for Bertrandt UK.  It has not only benefitted our graduates by giving them two years hard-won work skills in six months, but it has been hugely valuable for management by giving us insights into the character, skills and potential of our new starters.  We’ve found our participants have started to work better together, and have been able to more effectively deal with stressful situations such as presenting to senior management, chairing meetings and dealing with suppliers.  The quality of the facility at ARU is very good, and being close by, has enabled us to reduce time out of the office.  We have also been very impressed with the quality and experience of the lecturers and facilitators provided by ARU.

Brendon Shaw is the Engineering Manager for Bertrandt UK, part of the Bertrandt Group. Find out more about the graduate development programme, call the Business Services Support Team on 0845 196 5878 or email