A-Z Of Employers: Wolseley

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The Independent Online

What does it do?

Not to be confused with Henry VIII's sidekick, Cardinal Wolsey, or Wolsey, the British clothing manufacturer, Wolseley UK is part of one of the world's biggest distributors of building, heating and plumbing materials to trade outlets. Founded by Dublin-born Frederick Wolseley in the late 1800s, the company grew gradually during the 20th century. Several recent acquisitions have led to it becoming the biggest British player in the field. Among the trading names under the Wolseley umbrella are Build Center, Plumb Center, Electric Center, Brandon Hire and Bathstore. The American spelling - "center" - is deliberate, despite the British origins of these parts of the firm. The business aims to double in size every five to seven years. Among recent developments is a move into new lines of renewable materials for the building industry.

Vital statistics

Wolseley has 1,800 branches in the UK, which together distribute more than 400,000 products, including 116 million bricks a year - enough to build 17,000 new homes.

The office

The head office is in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. Other main centres are in Ripon in North Yorkshire, Worcester and Milton Keynes.

Is this you?

On average, Wolseley takes about 50 graduates a year on to its general management programme, most arriving with a 2.2, although degree discipline is unimportant. Rounded characters are sought, with evidence of community or charity work during university years favoured.

The recruitment process

There's an element of self-service to the application process, which starts at the careers section of the website www.wolseley.co.uk. Candidates (assuming they get through each stage of the process) book themselves a slot at each later stage. The centre stage is key; it includes a group task relevant to the building materials trade, such as developing a slogan and poster to promote products, or producing a health and safety booklet. Your answers to an "occupational personality questionnaire" will also be taken into consideration. Training lasts for two years and involves graduates moving between several branches within one of the trading arms. It starts on the shop floor and includes learning how to drive a fork-lift truck, and dealing with customers. Recruits also attend in-house training courses on topics including IT systems, product knowledge and leadership. There's also study towards a diploma in management studies.

Top dollar?

No details here, but Wolseley claims that its pay is competitive with the UK's biggest graduate recruiters.

Beam me up Scotty?

No graduate recruit has ever failed to move into a permanent Wolseley job, and many are placed well before the end of the training programme. A personal mentor, working closely with senior management, guides this transition.

Who's the boss?

The managing director since 2006 has been Nigel Sibley, an accounting and computer science graduate from Manchester University.

Little-known fact

Founder Frederick Wolseley's initial business move was to invent the first mechanical sheep-shearing device while he was living in Australia.