Future professionals learn the Spectrum of print

Spectrum’s Campus Programme asks talented young people from all backgrounds to apply for a chance to ‘earn and learn’ and everyone feels the benefit.
An office containing three light wood tables, which are surrounded by black ergonomic office chairs. The backdrop is of the floor to ceiling windows across the whole office, which have black structural beams across them, forming the shape of three triangles. The ceiling is white, with suspended white circles, some of which are lights.

Written by Marie-Anne Leonard

Writer & Editor, Canon VIEW

“Good salespeople are not born, they’re made!” declares the brochure for Spectrum’s ‘Campus’ Programme. It’s a statement that comes very much from the heart of a business that understands the importance of learning, growth and opportunity. After all, their current Executive Chairman started his career as an apprentice with Spectrum, so it’s certainly a company where people can rise.

Founded in Hull in 1983, Spectrum is one of only nine Canon Platinum Partners in the UK and is also responsible for the Canon Business Centre North East in Newcastle. They work with businesses large and small, helping them to take control of their print, documents and data. So, when Spectrum salespeople walk through the door of a new customer, they must be ready to learn about how this business functions from the ground up and have the knowledge to bring a solution – or combination of solutions – that is right for them. There is no ‘one size fits all’ here.

But experience and learning take time. No one can be expected to arrive at the door of Spectrum, fully-fledged and ready to begin designing transformative solutions for new customers. Canon products and solutions require specialist training, and there is also a whole suite of skills that salespeople need to be able to turn prospects into happy customers. Many might see this as a recruitment challenge. Sally Evans, Director of People at Spectrum, however, saw a huge opportunity. “Canon takes someone really special to sell it. So, our Sales Directors wanted to ‘grow their own’ salespeople, to train them,” she explains. The idea was to bring in a cohort of “career hungry” young people and offer them a year-long paid learning placement. Yes, you read that correctly – paid. They called it ‘Campus’.

On the right, a bearded man wearing a suit gestures towards a computer screen. To his right we can see the back of a woman, who has her head facing towards him. She is wearing a black top with white polka dots. Beyond them both is a screen showing an illustration of a camera and above them is a circular light. To the far right of the shot is a partial figure of a blonde woman.

Campus trainees undertake a year of structured intensive learning within the Spectrum business while earning a salary. It’s a golden opportunity for ambitious young people looking to kick start their careers.

“From the start we were very open and honest, very transparent,” explains Sally. “This is what the Campus Programme looks like – we’ll pay you a wage and fund the training, but at the end of that year, there’s no guarantee of a permanent position.” Even so, earning while learning is a golden opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often. However, when you factor into the equation that Campus applications are only open to 18 to 24 year olds, it can put the programme in direct competition with university applications. “This is why we get parents involved because it’s a big decision to make,” admits Sally. Even so, it didn’t deter huge numbers of young people applying for the first round of admissions in 2019. There are also no set academic requirements, with the Sales Directors looking for “confident, career-driven people. Good communicators who have a work ethic.” This is a brilliant way to level the playing field and encourage a diverse range of applicants. And Spectrum’s slightly unconventional approach to hiring doesn’t stop there. Everyone is invited to a recruitment day, where they take part in group exercises and workshops, as well as individual tasks – such as the ‘Why Me?’ presentation. Applicants are asked to stand up in front of their peers and potential future colleagues and make the case for choosing them. Yes, it’s high pressure. And yes, it takes a bold person to sell themselves, but dealing well with pressure is part of the salesperson’s skillset. And selling your ability to deliver? Well, that too.

A smiling man and woman stand facing the camera, shaking hands. They are holding a framed certificate to the camera with their spare hands. The man is wearing a dark blue suit, and shirt with no tie. The woman is wearing a high-necked yellow and black blouse. They both wear lanyards around their necks.

Spectrum Campus trainees graduate with a year’s worth of intensive sales training skills that will be foundational to their careers.

The final six spend a year in each other’s company and it’s something of an understatement to say that their itinerary is varied. “They spend time with each department and learn about each function, finance, HR, etc,” explains Sally. “They also spend time with suppliers and undertake plenty of Canon training.” The whole year is designed and structured by Spectrum’s dedicated Learning & Development Manager, so the Campus cohort enjoy a balance of on-the-job training, where they gain customer-facing experience, as well as classroom learning for the practical and technical aspects of their work. Everything is explored, nothing is glossed over, and Sally readily admits that it can be pretty demanding. But it’s also fun and the Campus trainees quickly become a tight-knit unit and lean on each other for help and support. Regular assessment throughout the year from their dedicated Campus Manager, as well as the L&D Manager and Sales Directors also makes sure they are progressing and coping well and, importantly, enjoying the experience.

Overall, it's a process that acknowledges that talent can come from many different places. When hiring is based on potential, rather than on-paper qualifications it has fantastic knock-on effects in a workplace. Not only has it has brought a younger generation into the industry, but it adds to the mix of people within Spectrum. And this approach means that the trainees are not the only ones learning – at the end of their year, each Campus trainee is asked for their ideas in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style presentation to senior leadership, where they pitch ways to improve an area of the business. Graduation day is also a big deal, where the Campus and their families are invited out for dinner and drinks with Spectrum and presented with their graduation certificates. The four successful recruits who are offered a full-time position with Spectrum are also presented with brand new company cars. As you might imagine, the excitement is palpable.

Campus was, of course, paused during the height of the pandemic, but Sally and the team are thrilled to have recently been able to get out into the community again and talk about the programme. They have nurtured great relationships with local schools, colleges and universities, and taking part in careers events and workshops is an important way to sell the concept of Spectrum Campus. These face-to-face events also give the team an opportunity to raise awareness of how rewarding a career in the print industry can be. The Spectrum family – including their most recent Campus graduates – are looking forward to welcoming the latest wave of applicants to the programme.

Find out more about Spectrum Campus.

Marie-Anne Leonard Writer & Editor, Canon VIEW

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