To see the look on the face of a young, unemployed and unskilled
person when they realise that they are being offered a job that
offers a real career is something very special. For it also to sink
in that they will be working in one of the most advanced
manufacturing environments in the world takes this all to a new
But that is what is happening in Ashington, right now, and it is
so exciting to see.
With many people in South East Northumberland unemployed, whether
skilled or unskilled, AkzoNobel's arrival in Ashington has been
like that of no other I have worked alongside and I believe its
presence reflects hope and confidence in the future for a town.
As many people will now be aware, the company is building a
state-of-the-art manufacturing facility on a green field site in
the town from where it will produce internationally famous brands
such as Dulux, Cuprinol, Hammerite and Polycell. There is no doubt
that it will be one of the most advanced manufacturing plants ever
built and will be a tremendous asset to South East
AkzoNobel recognised very early in its planning that the new
site provided an almost unparalleled opportunity to break new
ground in the manufacturing sector and is currently on the cusp of
putting in place a very special, diverse workforce, where mind-set
and attitude are more important than qualifications and experience.
The company's key cultural principal at the Ashington site of One
Team One Vision where everyone is equal yet individuals are
encouraged to achieve to their absolute maximum, permeates across
every part of the business.
Although the manufacturing industry is often thought of as a
non-diverse environment, AkzoNobel is passionate about ensuring
that its team is made up of men and women of all ages. It's also a
question of 'no qualifications, no problem' as it is prepared -
with some of its operator roles - to overlook qualifications
demanded by other companies. It's all about the right people. This
is brilliant news for school and college leavers, mums looking to
get back to work and for mature workers that can be overlooked due
We are working in partnership with AkzoNobel and Jobcentre Plus
to create a passionate and diverse workforce. We screen and assess
candidates, male and female from the local community who share the
mind-set and positive attitude that the firm is looking to harness
and we have assisted AkzoNobel by running two-week Pre-employment
Training Courses that are amongst the most innovative and
invigorating that I have ever seen. On the first day we have a
collection of enthusiastic individuals who have put themselves
forward for potential selection. The group usually comprises
unemployed, often unskilled people, but may also include skilled
workers who have been made redundant, who share a common desire to
At the end of the two weeks the group not only understand the
key cultural principles that define AkzoNobel, but they have
learned about themselves - their ability to communicate to one
another and within the group dynamic, how to problem-solve and the
importance of developing a supportive and collective team culture.
This has been ground-breaking stuff.
I bet not many of them thought that an important part of their
job would include community engagement, but that was the case.
AkzoNobel is totally committed to creating inspiring and caring
communities not just at work but in the localities in which it is
based. To ensure that this commitment is achieved, every one of its
staff must be involved in outreach projects in which the company
works hand in hand with the community to enhance and improve the
environment and people's lives.
To date, four people have been offered employment, with a
further number being introduced into the business in April and
On the first course alone, we had men and women aged 19 to 55,
who as part of the course, studied Level 2 Manufacturing
Awareness. As well as gaining key knowledge about the sector,
candidates were equipped with key presentation, team-building and
confidence skills, tools that are essential in the forging of a
For those that aren't successful, it isn't all bad news.
Candidates acquire invaluable skills for the working world and
gain a head start to securing the job they deserve. In fact, most
of those completing the course already do. Northumberland College
can boast an impressive success rate, with 75% of those who
complete one of our pre-employment training programmes finding
employment in local businesses.
Mellisa Armstrong, 20, from Ashington, is a recent addition to
the AkzoNobel team and had all but given up on her dreams of a
career. But since landing a job as a manufacturing support operator
within the company, her dreams have been transformed into reality
and she was thrilled to discover that she hadn't only landed
herself a job, but a career with a global company.
From working alongside the business, it's easy to see that
AkzoNobel is good for Ashington and Ashington is good for
AkzoNobel. There is a true passion and a drive for success that is
very tangible and compelling.