Enhancing Skills at William Blythe Ltd


Founded 170 years ago the William Blythe operation at Accrington, Lancashire in the North of England is a global leader in inorganic chemistry, manufacturing and supplying a specialist range of products for use in advanced applications around the world. The site is a Top-Tier COMAH site employing 97 people with a turnover of £33M.


To meet changing market needs William Blythe recognised its business strategy needed to change from being a commodity manufacturer to becoming a knowledge based specialty chemical producer. To meet its speciality business strategy and enable world class performance, William Blythe recognised it would need to increase the knowledge and skills of its workforce. 


Beginning with a Training Needs Analysis in 2010 the Company developed a five year strategy to up-skill its Operations workforce.  With demonstration of competency at the forefront of training and development, the Company wanted to ensure it used only credible and nationally recognised qualifications and chose the PAA\VQ-SET suite of qualifications to fulfil this requirement.


The programme adopted allowed for 54 learners to work towards a range of Business Improvement, Production Support, Process Operations, Engineering and Laboratory qualifications. Now nearing the end of the initial five year programme the site benefits are there to see.

Operations Director Graham Smith explains, “Improvement over the last five years is now manifesting itself in business results and behaviours which is testament to the implementation of the PAA\VQ-SET qualifications which cover both competence and knowledge assessments. Ongoing performance management and continuous improvement processes are now embedded within the business."


"Our employees are now more knowledgeable of the way in which the business operates and are empowered to make decisions, something not expected of them in the past. This has raised their expectations of others which has had a knock-on effect into other areas of the business which has led to an increase in their awareness which is fantastic."


The training is being delivered by BIT By BIT UK Ltd, a PAA\VQ-SET Centre, and a leading specialist within the process sector for business improvement and the delivery of technical competence.


Barry Edwards from BIT By BIT UK Ltd comments, “The fundamental success of this programme is based on the bespoke underpinning knowledge workshops which form the foundation of each individual’s learning and development. By working with Graham Smith to detail the key learning areas we have been able to develop a bespoke package which links perfectly to support the assessment towards the nationally recognised qualifications of PAA\VQ-SET.”


The overwhelming success of the programme to date is very encouraging for the future growth of the Accrington plant and is testament to the commitment of William Blythe’s investment in their workforce, and the functionality of the available qualifications to support the sector from PAA\VQ-SET.


Graham Smith said, “Throughout the programme BIT By BIT UK Ltd has offered both operational and strategic support and has worked with us to implement training and development initiatives in line with business objectives using a mix of technical, business improvement, compliance and functional / behavioural training. This has enabled William Blythe to be more focused on the immediate and long term aspects of the business, ensuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are met and the staff have more awareness and empowerment.”

The resultant increase in process knowledge and skills has created an enabling infrastructure, which continues to build capacity, provide a continuum for competitiveness and deliver the business objectives. Implicit in this has been establishing a culture of continuous improvement and a Company-wide understanding of the business needs delivered through the site Values and Behaviours.


Identifying a need for regular re-assessment of competence, part of the Company strategy was to become a registered PAA\VQSET centre which it achieved in November 2013. Still supported by Barry Edwards of BIT by BIT and Dave Jenkins of PAA\VQ-SET the Company is coming to the end of its Assessor and Internal Verifier training and accreditation. 


In 2015 it will begin re-assessing its staff as part of the Competent Authorities expectation of ongoing competence. To this end training manuals and assessment material for each area have been produced. The content includes the market the business is engaged in, plant chemistry, unit operations, process safety and control, environmental protection and step by step measures to maintain quality and manufacturing consistency.


For William Blythe, its training and development has provided a transparent process for raising standards of working, enhancing skill levels and demonstrating ongoing competence, all of which help to align its operations with the business strategy. The culture for life-long learning and development is now totally integrated as part of the site strategy.

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