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Cherry Professional – how NTU are placing graduates with local businesses

A look at how NTU are supporting local SMEs with advice and support on recruiting higher and degree apprentices.

Danielle Asano, MD at Cherry Professional

Cherry Professional

This support is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

Through the GRADS for D2N2 project, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with a package of free and subsidised support to help them identify their skills and talent needs, and benefit from graduate talent in the region.

Cherry Professional are a relationship-led recruitment agency operating in two core sectors; accountancy and finance, and business and administration.

With offices in Nottingham and Derby, Cherry have been running for the past 11 years, filling temporary and permanent vacancies in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, many of which are for SMEs.

Among a team of 29 people, they employ 19 recruitment consultants, have an annual turnover of around £5m per year and have ambitions to double in size over the next two years.

Danielle Asano, the co-founder and managing director of Cherry Professional, is also an NTU alumna, having graduated in 1998 with a degree in communications studies.

Since leaving, Danielle has stayed involved with the university, having volunteered as part of the alumni fellowship programme and provided mentoring support to current and recent graduates.

She has also ensured Cherry Professional and NTU have an ongoing relationship, with them having been involved in a project in 2018 that saw students undertaking a number of challenges with local businesses. They have also attended a number of ScaleUp workshops in which the university helps to advise and support local businesses identified as high-growth potential.

In 2019, Cherry Professional were on the lookout for someone to help support their marketing director and were able to access funding through the GRADS for D2N2 project to employ Libbie McCaughey as a marketing assistant.

Danielle said: “The support we’ve had from NTU has been really beneficial. We originally approached the D2N2 Growth Hub who referred us to the GRADS for D2N2 project at NTU.

“We knew we needed more resource in the marketing function to support our marketing manager so sought a graduate placement to bring in some fresh ideas.

“We have taken grads in the past, but this funding has been really useful as we knew there would likely be a more permanent position available but this was a great way for both us and Libby to see how the fit worked for us both.”

Libby McCaughey, marketing assistant

Libby McCaughey, marketing assistant

Libby graduated from NTU with a degree in media communications and society.

During her studies, Libby had worked in hospitality but due to the skills learned from her degree she had the opportunity to become involved in supporting with social media and internal communications with one of her employers. It was based on this experience that she decided she wanted to explore marketing further as a career.

Libby said: “Having worked in hospitality where you’re always on your feet, I was a little apprehensive about taking an office-based role.

“When I got the call to interview for the role at Cherry Professional the prospect of a short-term placement appealed to me because it meant that I could get an insight into what it would be like to work in a busy, full-scope marketing position, without having to commit long-term, just in case it didn’t suit me.”

However, her concerns were cast aside almost straight away.

“For me, the job became exciting really, really quickly. I knew very early on that I’d like to stay on in a permanent position if possible and was thrilled when I was told that this would be a possibility.”

Libby’s days are now filled with a huge range of responsibilities, from email marketing and segmenting audiences, to social media management and designing graphics and promotional materials for online and offline use.

She also contributes regularly to the Cherry Professional blog and has started the Google-accredited Analytics course to improve her skills around audience engagement, acquisition and conversion. She is also undertaking monthly internal training sessions to learn skills about pay-per-click advertising and SEO.

She commented: “I really enjoy being involved in the full marketing mix and love the fact that I have the chance to get involved with so many different areas of marketing and I get to use my creativity everyday as well as expanding my knowledge. I really enjoy learning on the job as well as some of the theory behind marketing. It has really spurred me on in my development and helped me see all the opportunities for growth at Cherry.”

Looking forward

Looking forward, Libby wants to complete a Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification and aspires to become a marketing manager.

“I have a great role model in my current manager and I want to continue to immerse myself into learning all the different aspects of marketing to see the bigger picture, and one day to manage and drive it for the business.

“One of the best things about working for a smaller company is that you get the chance to work in lots of different areas and get involved in a variety of things. Smaller companies definitely have a tangible appreciation of your impact, as your future is also their future.”

Danielle agrees with that sentiment.

“We have a really strong internal training programme here to help everyone get their feet under the desk and can offer a 12-18 month investment. We’re discussing further opportunities for Libby to ensure we help her develop in the areas she is passionate about. At Cherry Professional we are passionate about enabling all our staff to achieve their goals and ambitions.

“I’d definitely recommend graduate placements to any SME considering it as an option. As well as the opportunity for both sides to assess the fit, we find that graduates bring different perspectives and fresh ways of looking at a problem.

“The ultimate dream for us is to be able to offer a permanent position once the placement is over, and we’re thrilled that we were able to do so with Libby.”

A number of staff from Cherry Professional are also enrolled on NTU’s upcoming Women in Leadership course, which has places available on sessions running throughout 2020.

Interested in accessing support as a local business?

To find out more about the ESF High Level Skills programme and the wider support that NTU can offer to local businesses, visit our website.

You can also contact us via any of the below channels:

* The GRADS for D2N2 project is part-funded by the European Social Fund and is part of the ESF High Level Skills programme. The programme is delivered by NTU as part of the High Level Skills consortium which also includes Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby, and Nottingham City Council.

Supporting social mobility and widening participation

NTU is at the forefront of social mobility. The university recruits a quarter of its home undergraduates from households with a combined income of £15,000 or less, and has an impressive graduate employment rate. Four out of five graduates secure graduate entry jobs or training six months after graduation, and the GRADS for D2N2 programme is a contributing factor towards this.

The university is a signatory to the Social Mobility Pledge, and is also a co-lead on a national centre to research and develop best practices for universities on how to improve social mobility.