Continuous investment in employee learning and development has created several new opportunities for young people at AkzoNobel.

The leading paints and coatings manufacturer, best known for its Dulux, Dulux Trade and Cuprinol brands, created over 150 new skilled jobs for local people when it officially opened the doors to its new £100 million site in Ashington earlier this year.

With the plant now in production, the company’s focus is firmly on upskilling its workforce and providing new opportunities for staff through training programmes and professional development.

Reece Wright is one of AkzoNobel Ashington’s first and youngest trainees . He is part of a ten strong automation team that is responsible for the site’s world class, highly advanced, fully automated operating system.

As a former qualified stonemason, Reece (25) worked on local construction sites for more than five years developing his professional and personal skills including problem solving, communication, risk assessment, practical thinking, self-initiative and teamwork. However, having seen the company’s flagship plant in development, he saw an opportunity to change his career path and applied for the temporary role of Commissioning and Start-Up Operator. He was successful and two years on, with continued on-the-job training and personal development, he has now secured a permanent position as an Automation Trainee.

Reece commented, “Seeing the plant being built was an opportunity too good to miss but now, two years on, with continued support from management and colleagues, I have a permanent job that I thoroughly enjoy with a company that I am very excited to be a part of.  The on-the-job training I have received has been absolutely amazing and I’ve been made to feel that I am an integral part of the automation and engineering teams as well as the overall Ashington workforce.

“All manufacturing technologies at the facility are managed by one integrated plant control system and this means that everything on site is initiated automatically without operator intervention – from the ordering of raw materials to the shipping of finished products. My role means that I regularly liaise with European counterparts as part of my learning programme, ensuring that all interfaces between our systems run smoothly. It is very empowering and being able to come away each day with new skills, knowledge and recognition is something that makes my job very rewarding.”

And not long after joining AkzoNobel’s flagship site, Reece was nominated by fellow employees and recognised as part of the monthly #achieve awards for his desire, dedication and commitment to learning, first class levels of teamwork and aptitude for the role.  Now working alongside the Production and Engineering teams, he provides critical operational and software support to the operators delivering some of the world’s most well known household brands.

He commented, “The job has opened up a world of opportunity and is poles apart from the construction sites I was once part of. They are very different roles but the skills I learned back then were a very good foundation and have, without doubt, enabled me to work alongside a diverse group of highly skilled people that all have the same drive and vision.”

To find out more about AkzoNobel, visit www.akzonobel.com.