Fast Track: A-Z of Employers - Kimberly-Clark

Age: Just over 125, a birthday it celebrated by offering share options to all 50,000 employees.

History: Four Americans founded this company to manufacture paper products, selling their first product - a stack of newsprint made of linen and cotton rags - for 15 cents. In 1915, the firm's first mill began to manufacture absorbent cellulose wadding, first used to bandage wounded soldiers in the First World War, and later adapted for menstrual use; the sanitary protection Kotex was advertised discreetly in the Ladies Home Journal in 1921. Kleenex facial tissue was introduced three years later. Today, more than 700 Europeans blow their noses on it every second. During the war, the company turned to manufacturing anti-aircraft gun mounts and detonating fuses for shells. In 1972, the Andrex puppy - thought up by Scott Paper, which was to merge with K-C in 1995 - first hit television screens, after the original advert, showing a girl dragging toilet tissue around a house, was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency. In 1997, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary by launching hundreds of community projects.

Address: Global headquarters are in Dallas, with manufacturing facilities in 38 countries. European headquarters are in Reigate, in Surrey. There are eight sites in the UK.

Ambience: Innovation and teamwork are the watchwords. There's a friendly, co-operative environment, "where people take their work very seriously but do not take themselves too seriously", says a spokeswoman. Some sites have adopted casual dress on Fridays.

Vital statistics: There are around 55,000 employees world-wide, more than 8,000 based in Europe. The UK workforce is around 2,500. Last year's world-wide sales were valued at $12.5bn, with earnings of $1.35bn. European operations contributed around 20 per cent of global sales, and in the UK the company is a market leader in toilet and facial tissues.

Lifestyle: The company operates on a flexi-time policy, with achievement of objectives seen as more important than hours worked. Placements in other European countries are common.

Easy to get into? Only 15 or 20 graduates are recruited each year, from 500-600 applications. There is no general management training programme, but trainees are recruited into marketing, IT, engineering and logistics departments. A 2.1 degree is expected, and candidates need strong written and oral communication skills, analytical ability and a desire to work in a team. There is a lengthy selection and assessment procedure; there are also occasional summer and 12-month placements. Call 01732 594504 for an application form.

Glittering alumni: None to speak of, except the Andrex puppy.

Pay: Starting salaries are pounds 19,000-pounds 21,000. There are six-monthly performance and pay reviews within the first two years, and high achievers can expect rapid promotion. There's also a profit-related bonus scheme.

Training: Trainees start on a two-year professional development programme, which aims to provide key business and personal skills. After that, there's the opportunity to take leadership and team development programmes.

Facilities: Canteens and restaurants at all sites.

Who's the boss? European president is Rob Van der Merwe, and Ian Jones is the general manager of the UK consumer business.

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