An internship in retail offers a wide range of skills

Car rental company Enterprise Rent-A-Car runs an extensive work placement programme every year. We spoke to Ashley Hever, Talent and Acquisition Manager for the UK and Ireland, and Susan Howard, a previous intern about the programme.

Ashley, can you tell me about Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s (ERAC) internship programme?

We have a variety of programmes which are similar to academic schedules. We run summer programmes, one year placements and 6 month programmes. The attraction of our programmes is in the flexibility we have and working this around the universities and students. All of our internships are paid and last year across the UK & Ireland we hired around 150 interns. The majority of which enter our branches working in a retail environment but we also have interns working in our business management teams, HR, IT and throughout our departments.

Susan, can you tell me about yourself and your placement at ERAC?

I’m a mature student studying Business Studies with Risk Management and Law in University of Limerick. As part of my work placement I wanted to experience a new city and I was therefore given the opportunity with ERAC to move to London and work in the Heathrow branch. I spent 8 months there in total. Initially I received a week of induction training and from there all training was based at the branch. Throughout the 8 months I attended many training workshops for sales, customer service and risk management.

The first few weeks were mainly about learning the computer systems and dealing with customers. From there I was sent away from the branch to the terminal where I was basically in charge of making my own calls and whether or not to rent a car to a customer and how much to charge. In effect it was like running my own branch. I dealt with all sorts of customers and complaints. Everyday is different and I was constantly learning.

Ashley, what’s the motivation for doing such an extensive internship programme?

We see this as a long term strategy. The bottom line is we get great talent for our business. We hire around 65% of our interns back into the business, whether this is part-time, when they return to university, or back the following year or to join us as a management trainee when they graduate. This is why our interview process mirrors the graduate one. It beings with an online application, then a telephone interview, followed by meeting the talent acquisition team for an interview, a branch visit and finally an assessment centre test. We have around 800 opportunities per year for graduates.

Susan, you’ve since returned to college and work part-time at ERAC’s Shannon airport branch. Is there anything that you felt you really learned about yourself or developed when in the role?

I think it was a surprise how resilient I was when faced with difficult situations. I hadn’t realised beforehand how fast paced the role was going to be or how many different aspects of the business I would be exposed to, especially since I relocated to a smaller branch at Shannon Airport. Something that really stood out for me is the level of autonomy associated with the role. I always felt sufficiently empowered to make my own decisions and to stand by them. In terms of moving forward, I have been to the Dublin office to spend time with the Risk Manager and in the future I hope to go into the field of risk management. I think the placement was extremely beneficial and I am certain that it will be a valuable tool on my CV for the future.

Susan, what advice would you give to students thinking about applying?

Be prepared to work and learn. You have to be driven, confident and good with people. You will start at the bottom but if you want a career path you have to demonstrate how enthusiastic you are about the role and I found that the easiest way to do this was by providing excellent customer service and sales.

Ashley, what would you say to any potential applicants?

We advise anybody who wishes to apply to make sure you do your research on us as a company, and network and meet us on campus as we meet many of our future interns at events on campus. We have over 100 campus brand managers all of whom are representing Enterprise and our brand. All of these brand managers have interned with us so they will of course answer any questions that you have.