Kerry Bentley: From Apprentice to Director
8th March 2019
Our Chief Executive Officer, Kerry Bentley, started her career as an apprentice and has worked her way up to CEO. Her early experience as an apprentice has shaped her approach to business and her whole career. Kerry is involved in the everyday running of the business and spends time with external partners, and customers on a daily basis. Her leadership style motivates and empowers staff to take ownership and fully participate in driving forward performance.
Kerry tells us in her own words about her career and the decisions that shaped her:
"After leaving school with very few qualifications, I was really unsure what I wanted to do in life. I got a job at a national training provider as a Level 2 Business Administration apprentice in their local office. I soon progressed to work at the head office as part of the central support team and continued developing my skills through my Level 3 Business Administration apprenticeship. This gave me the confidence to get out of the office and start providing face to face support to each local business centre. This massively impacted on my life as I was now driving all over the country and in became involved in supporting business centres which were failing. My business admin skills helped me to analyse and develop action plans to recover their contractual and financial performance.
As I was driving back from Dover one afternoon, I became embroiled in a traffic jam on the M25 – this, as anyone who's been in that position, gave me the opportunity to reflect on where I was going in life. I had discovered a passion for the sector – helping people to transform their lives through education and training and realised that even though I was only 25, I was ready to put my skills to the test and start my own business.
I secured a £6,000 loan from the bank, teamed up with a colleague and in 2000, we established a new training business to help others develop their skills. It was a thrilling time but scary too, as I was now responsible for employing other people. We began by providing training on a commercial basis to local people and local businesses. As word started to spread, and we started to grow, we became big enough to bid for larger contracts and we became very successful. This helped us to support more people to improve their lives. We have grown over the years securing more and more contracts.
I'm particularly proud that we support over 2,000 people each year to improve their lives and I now employ 50 staff. We have been awarded Ofsted 'Good' and in May last year we won the prestigious AAC 'Apprentice Provider of the Year – Business and Administrative'. This was a particularly proud moment for me as a former Business Admin apprentice. I felt as if things had come full circle to a certain extent and it made me reflect that a business admin Level 2 apprenticeship had put me on the path to much bigger things – a successful career and more importantly, a happy life. I also won Small Business of the Year at the Women in Business Awards in Nottingham a few months ago.
Winning these awards brought home to me my responsibilities as an ambassador for all apprentices.. I am so pleased that my career started through an apprenticeship and that I am now able to help others follow their own paths. Whatever your course, level, sector or background, you can access the support, guidance and skills to make something of yourself. You've just got to make the decision to do it. Fire it up and blaze a trail!