A-Z of Employers: FORD

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The Independent Culture
Age: 95.

History: Founder Henry Ford, of Detroit, wanted to create "a car for the great multitude" (that's you and me). So he gave up his job at the Edison Illuminating Company to become an automobile manufacturer, in 1903. The British branch opened eight years later in the latterly-famous Trafford Park, Manchester, and began by assembling Model T cars.

Address: Headquarters are still in Detroit, in the suburb of Dearborn. The European operation runs from head offices in Brentwood, Essex.

Ambience: Offices are open-plan, although staff at Brentwood are expected to wear smart suits. Engineers at the research and development centre in Dunton, Essex are allowed more casual dress.

Vital statistics: Turnover for 1997 was pounds 6,876 million, with a profit of pounds 60 million: Ford sold 396,353 cars last year. The company employs 30,000 people in Britain at 13 locations where the company's most popular models are made. Worldwide, there are 179 manufacturing facilities in 28 countries, with a workforce of 350,000.

Lifestyle: Those hungry for adventure will have plenty to get their teeth into: graduates are encouraged to go abroad to work, either at world headquarters in the States, or pioneering business development in places such as Vietnam, Chile or China.

Easy to get into? The number of places on the graduate scheme varies from year to year, with around 100 for 1998. Those wanting a place in the company's engineering operation will need a 2.1 degree, and others applying to work in the company's HR and IT departments need a good degree too. Candidates are interviewed and then sent to an assessment centre for further interrogation and exercises.

Glittering alumni: Eamonn Martin is Ford's golden boy - he won the London Marathon while in his day job as an engineer at Dunton. Sir Alex Trotman, chairman and chief executive of Ford worldwide, shows that great things are possible: he began at Ford as a purchasing clerk in Dagenham.

Pay: Ford runs a graduate development programme, with employees starting on pounds 19,864 - a figure which rises to pounds 22,723 after a year-and-a-half.

Training: The company believes in the Japanese doctrine of kaizen - continuous improvement - and has set up learning resource centres at most sites. Engineers can work toward professional chartership and, in an innovative scheme, trainees can draw up to pounds 200 each year to subsidise non-vocational courses: anything from bricklaying to parachuting.

Facilities: The headquarters at Brentwood has a reputation for its canteen's sophisticated menu: this week's special is Turkey Escalope with Watercress Sauce on a Bed of Braised Cabbage, plus Lentil and Zucchini Patties with Salsa Rossa.

Who's the boss? Ian McAllister CBE is chairman and managing director: he's also the president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and co-chairs the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force.