Graduate: The breweries get them in

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The Independent Online
The growth in sales of alcoholic drinks makes the wine, beer and spirits industry increasingly attractive to graduate entrants. Meg Carter finds out what the companies offer - and what they expect in return.

Christmas is the busiest time of year for the drinks trade, and this year's festive season looks likely to be bigger than ever.

With wine worth an estimated pounds 6bn at retail prices, spirits slightly more and beer pounds l4bn, alcohol is a growth market in the UK. Which explains why a growing number of graduates are looking to work for major wines, spirits and beer companies.

Competition is fierce for places on the larger companies' graduate recruitment and training schemes. Most of the major drinks companies - Allied Domecq, Guinness, International Distillers & Vintners and United Distillers - look for some sort of relevant work experience, such as in retail or a related business field. Increasingly, a number are trying to develop relationships with potential recruits while they are still undergraduates.

"We are getting more creative in our approach to recruiting to ensure a better fit with recruits and reduce the chances of taking on people who will leave after four or five years," explains Chris Street, resourcing/development manager for Guinness Group which includes Guinness Brewing and United Distillers. Guinness brands include Guinness Stout, Red Stripe and Harp and, in the UD portfolio, Johnnie Walker and Gordon's Gin. Following the merger with Grand Met, the group will also include IDV.

The company recently launched two schemes targeting students, Business Insight and Graduate Connect. The former, aimed at second-year undergraduates, involves a three-day hands-on session each Easter from which selections for work experience the following summer are made. The latter, run by UD, involves paying undergraduates to research trends in the youth market. The process enables the company to see potential recruits at work.

"We want more people who stay with us longer," Ms Street explains. "This means we talk to them earlier on, or recruit more in their late twenties who've worked elsewhere."

At IDV - whose brands include Archers, Barleys, Croft, Smirnoff and Jack Daniels - Claire Kempson, the training/management development manager, is responsible for two formal graduate training programmes: in finance and marketing. The main access point for graduates, however, is the sales development manager scheme.

"We take only three people a year on each of the finance and the marketing schemes," she says. "Finance involves a two-year programme including professional exams and rotation between different roles within our finance team. Marketing is also a two-year scheme with nine months in sales, six months in trade marketing and a further six months in consumer marketing." Starting salaries are pounds l6,500.

"We always look for work experience, motivation, energy and enthusiasm, a desire to succeed, analytical skills and business awareness," Ms Kempson says. And in an increasingly international business, a willingness to relocate within the UK or overseas.

Allied Domecq is a leading player in the market. Its Spirits & Wines division is an international business with brands including Ballantine's, Beefeater, Courvoisier and Kahlua and recruits around 12 graduates a year to its high fliers recruitment scheme in sales and marketing, finance, information technology and logistics. Some national subsidiaries around the world also run their own graduate schemes.

Aside from the standard shopping list of ambition, drive, influencing skills and analytical reasoning, AD also looks for people who will fit the culture of the organisation. "It's a fairly chaotic culture in the sense that we expect people to manage their own careers and be flexible about personal location," explains Daniel Cloke, corporate human resources director.

The scheme has three features: placements, development modules and mentoring. "After the first placement, we want people to start choosing what they want to do next rather than waiting to be told," he says. With a starting salary of pounds 25,000-plus, the company selects the best and slightly older graduates with language skills and commercial experience. "We are after people who can make an immediate impact, unlike the traditional graduate `tourist programmes'."