Big brands in sectors from retail to FMCG, finance to utilities, all use graduate schemes to source the next wave of fresh talent for their businesses. But that’s not the only option.
Alternatively, some companies opt for internships that turn into fully fledged employment, others for apprenticeship schemes, and some even throw new starters in at the deep end with a full-time, permanent role. So what are the benefits and drawbacks of each approach?
Both the Future Leaders Programme and commercial graduate scheme at pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) integrate an element of marketing alongside sales and commercial management, supply chain and expert engagement.
Marketing makes up 12 months of both schemes, during which time graduates gain experience of all aspects of marketing from integrated connections planning, content and creative development to digital ecosystem and asset development, new product development, PR, shopper activation and healthcare professional marketing.
“When identifying people to join the graduate schemes, we look for passion, enthusiasm and agility to learn, work with others and adapt to change,” says Anna Hale, vice-president of area marketing for Northern Europe at GSK Consumer Healthcare.
“Training is mapped to the skillset for all of the functions. It is developed with marketers and the result should be that our graduates have completed projects within all of the different areas of marketing.”
At P&G we build from within, which means many of the people students may meet were once interns themselves.
Emma Lau, P&G
To date, marketing has been the department most highly sought after by graduates finishing the scheme, with graduate marketers progressing to work on consumer healthcare brands such as Voltarol, Aquafresh and Beechams.
This year, GSK also introduced a sales executive apprenticeship scheme in GSK Consumer Healthcare, focusing on grocery and pharmacy sales, with a view to broadening the origins from which it recruits early talent.
“Having seen the successes to date from our supply, finance and IT schemes at GSK, we are really excited to see how our apprentices progress in their careers within the business,” Hale explains.
“There are no imminent plans to start a marketing apprenticeship scheme in 2018, but based on the success of the sales apprenticeship scheme, it is something that may be considered in the future.”
Supermarket Aldi accepted its first industrial placement student in marketing last year. The student is currently mid-way through a 12-month rotation across the marketing department, where she is being mentored on the principles of marketing, participating in content shoots, meeting with partners such as Google and Facebook, and learning to manage agency relationships.
“Isabel is our first placement student and she has come in with an open mind and an eagerness to learn,” reports Adam Zavalis, Aldi UK marketing director.
“Although she already has a good understanding of the principles of marketing, it’s her insight into the younger consumer that has already proven invaluable to the team. Indeed, in her first few months she has offered insights into the current student mindset that we were able to utilise and deploy in relevant campaigns.”
While this is the first year of the marketing placement, the wider scheme has run for many years, with most of Aldi’s senior management team having gone through the programme.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) has chosen not to run a graduate scheme in marketing, preferring for new entrants to join the business in a full-time capacity as assistant brand managers in the marketing and brand management teams. The newcomers are immediately assigned full responsibility for their brand and business results, with accountability for developing and executing strategies in partnership with wider internal teams and agencies.
P&G does, however, offer paid summer internships for second- and third-year university students which are viewed as a mutual trial, explains talent supply manager for Northern Europe, Emma Lau.
“It’s an opportunity for students to find out if P&G is the right fit for them, just as much as it is a way for us to understand if they have the right skills we are looking for. At P&G we build from within, which means many of the people students may meet were once interns themselves.”
Experience on the ground
Although Marks & Spencer currently runs an apprenticeship in retail management, the retailer is not actively pursuing setting up an apprenticeship in marketing. The high street chain does, however, run a marketing graduate scheme attracting marketing graduates or people who have undertaken formal or informal work placements in a marketing environment.
Over 18 months the recruits gain experience across the entire marketing department from customer insight, the design studio, brand management, product presentation and relationship marketing to international marketing, digital marketing, campaigns and events. All graduates are hired on permanent contracts with the expectation that they will take up a role within the company once the scheme is complete.
After joining the M&S marketing graduate scheme in September 2014, Emmeline Rawcliffe has progressed to become a womenswear brand and marketing manager. She entered the course after studying a degree in business management at Northumbria University, which included a year-long placement in marketing with Yorkshire-based publisher, Emerald.
“M&S is an amazing brand that I’ve grown up around and really love all the products, so on a personal level it felt like a good match,” she explains. “From a marketing perspective, it had amazing brand awareness, really strategic advertising and I thought I could learn a lot about marketing as the scheme was varied and compelling.”
Although the course is meant to run for 18 months, Rawcliffe finished it after a year as her dream job became available in the campaigns team, where she started working on multichannel campaigns for seasonal events such as Valentine’s Day and commercial trading campaigns for Black Friday.
Rawcliffe says she learnt a “phenomenal amount” during her graduate scheme, from how to communicate with a range of stakeholders to running complex multichannel campaigns.
You can offer all the apprenticeships in the world, but unless you’re educating people prior they’re not going to be taking them up.
Jack Williams, Atomic
“It gives you good responsibility early on. You’re given the confidence to manage big campaigns from inception to execution and it also gives you a good overview of what your future career could be,” she says.
Though she sees the potential opportunities of a marketing apprenticeship as being positive, Rawcliffe explains that personally she was keen to continue in education, particularly as her passion for marketing only emerged during her degree.
“I definitely believe apprenticeships are a really good idea, but I personally was keen to do a placement year. I’m not sure I was aware at that point that marketing would be a good career choice for me. It wasn’t until my placement year that I made the decision.”
Clearly, young people have varied reasons for taking particular routes into marketing, so to have the best possible talent pool available, brands need to consider all the options for recruiting new starters before deciding which to use or exclude.