this week: pilkington
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Age: 173

History: William Pilkington was one of the original shareholders in the St Helens Crown Glass Company, founded by three families in 1826. His brother Richard came into the business and it was renamed Pilkington Brothers in 1849. More than 100 years later, their descendent Sir Alastair Pilkington invented the float glass process - forming glass by floating it on molten tin - while doing the washing up with his wife, although the technique took seven years and pounds 80m to perfect. Pilkington is now one of the world's leading glass-makers, operating in 22 countries and majoring in the building and automotive markets, with products including the energy-saving Pilkington K Glass and solar control glass for cars.

Address: Headquarters and manufacturing operations are in St Helens. The company also has factories in Birmingham, Doncaster and North Wales.

Ambience: HQ offices are spacious, with views of ducks and a fountain in the middle of a lake. Employees are not expected to turn up in casual dress, but the atmosphere is "friendly and innovative".

Vital statistics: The company invests about pounds 40m in research and development, and employs 32,000 people. Of these, just 6,000 are based in the UK. Sales in 1997-1998 were pounds 3bn, and pre-tax profit pounds 120m.

Lifestyle: There are flexitime schemes at some sites, but graduates are expected to put in the hours. Being mobile is a key requirement: graduates join a specific part of the group, but there is early international experience through assignments or secondments. There's also a three-week induction period, with opportunities to get to know other graduate trainees.

Easy to get into? Of some 700 applicants, 20 to 30 are picked across a range of functions. Those applying for technical positions need the relevant degree, but any discipline is considered for functions such as HR and commercial management. Some 12-month industrial placements and summer placements are also available.

Pay: Starting salary this year is pounds 17,500 to pounds 20,000, depending on qualifications and experience.

Training: Pilkington has developed a strong mentoring scheme for graduate trainees, alongside a structured personal development plan for each recruit. Accountants and engineers complete external qualifications, and some trainees study for the Diploma in Business Administration.

Facilities: The Alexandra Restaurant operates as a franchise at St Helens HQ and there's also the grandly-named Pilkington Health Suite, which charges employees pounds 5.50 per month for use of its gym and fitness classes.

Who's the boss? Paolo Scaroni, who joined Pilkington in 1996. Before that, he was MD of SIV Spa glassmakers, and vice-president of Techint. Sir Nigel Rudd is non-executive chairman.

Rachelle Thackray