Hey everybody, I’m the Employer Services Manager in the Careers Service. I often visit employers to find out how they might like to work with Universities and recruit our students. I’m not a Careers Advisor, this blog post is not about giving advice, but I’m happy to share my experiences with you!
The first visit I’ll tell you about, is my trip to see Centrica (other energy providers are available!)
Getting to Windsor
I recently visited Centrica for their January Reveal Day. Based in Windsor, it wasn’t the easiest rail journey - three trains from Bath! - but when you get to Windsor and Eton station, you’re right next to the castle! Which I thought was pretty cool. Centrica HQ was then a short taxi ride across town.
I wasn’t completely sure what to expect…all I knew about Centrica was that they were ‘British Gas’? It turns out that whilst this wasn’t completely wrong, there is actually a lot more to Centrica than ‘just’ British Gas…
Who are Centrica
Centrica operate on a global scale and are the energy services company behind many big national brands in the UK, Ireland and the USA including Bord Gais Energy, British Gas and Direct Energy.
In 2015 there was a change of CEO and a new strategic direction was introduced. Whilst their focus previously was predominantly on gas, electricity and wind farms, the new CEO considered other fundamental trends with a view to diversifying investments.
Centrica certainly sounds like an exciting place to be. Globally, the crash in oil prices is still having an impact on the market and industry as a whole. Electricity supplies, once provided by large regional power stations, are now supplied locally through wind farms etc. Conversely, gas is now truly global thanks to a network of pipelines.
The energy industry has always been subject to tight political and regulatory guidance but has been under increased scrutiny in recent years in the media. Customers are increasingly savvy too, meaning Centrica have seen an increase in consumer engagement as we, the public, become more interested in where their fuel comes from, its type, the cost, the provider…
On top of everything, Centrica are also at the fore of digital technology advancements and this has created new opportunities for the company to provide products and services ie HIVE, apps, smart technology. They are even developing boilers which are able to anticipate when they are going to malfunction, diagnose the problem and send the information direct to the engineers, before the customer realises there is a problem!
And finally, Centrica are also seeing increased international competition from not only the energy companies but from leading technology firms now going into energy supply.
There is certainly a lot going on for them! But they seem to have a great company ethos and real drive to keep adapting to the demands placed on them.
They certainly seem to be maintaining their ambitions too; they hope to move into markets in South America, Australia and Japan and by scaling up, driving costs down. Nationally renewable energy currently provides 5-10% of all energy – this is predicted to rise to 50% by 2022.
What’s it like to work there?
After all of the corporate stuff, I then spoke to some graduates to find out what it was like. One was in Finance, one from HR and another from Marketing – not quite the scientists or engineers I was imagining! They were all recruited from their summer placement and told me that this is how Centrica recruit all of their graduates (if they can). Most summer placements are based in Windsor and Centrica put them all up in a local university halls. They described the summer placements as being really hands-on and really busy. They were each given live projects, sent on training courses and one grad described the experience as a 10-week, two-way job interview. At the end of the placement they have the opportunity to pitch for a graduate role and convince their line manager and HR that they are the best candidate. They said there was a huge relief (and incentive to work hard!) to return to their final year at university with a graduate job secured.
Graduate retention and progression is very positive at Centrica. Many employees have been at Centrica their entire professional career. There is lots of opportunity to ‘move around’ the organisation (within your stream) to experience different roles and projects.
The 2015 strategic review created a ‘Values Team’ at Centrica to create a common set of values for all brands and departments. The company values are:
These are aspirational and supportive, not benchmarks. They aim to create an environment to grow and succeed, where open and honest dialogue is encouraged.
There are a number of support networks at Centrica; LGBT+ called Spectrum, DAWN for employees with a disability, a Women’s Network and a group of YEP (Young Energy Professionals – a national body).
Graduates also plot their own development and career paths. In Finance they can choose between studying for ACA, ACCA, and CIMA and in Marketing they complete 3 8-month placements in different areas of the business (of their choosing) and then decide between an Institute of Marketing or GoogleSquared qualification. All graduates studying towards an external qualification receive 25 days study leave per year on top of their 25 days holiday entitlement.
At the end of the day, I was pretty tired! I contemplated getting a coffee from one of the on-site cafes and even eyed up the comfy looking chairs scattered around one of the open plan spaces!
But I had 3 trains I needed to catch to get back to Bath, so I jumped straight in an Uber!
I definitely learned a lot about who Centrica are and what they do. It challenged my stereotypes and typically (I do this every time I visit an employer - fickle old me!) thought ‘I wonder if they hire old ladies as well as grads….’
Want to find out more about the energy sector? Check out Centrica’s competitors: SSE plc, RWE Generation UK Holdings plc, EDF Energy plc.
Catherine (Employer Services Team)