UK’s largest road marking company makes long-term partnership with Keele Internships

Photo: WJ Group awarded the ‘Cultivating Talent’ award at the University’s Breaking the Mould awards in October 2019.

Keele University and road safety markings company WJ have cultivated a close relationship since 2017, and to date has seen seven students gain valuable experience through internships, with many continuing at WJ on a permanent basis.

WJ Group is the UK’s leading road safety markings business delivering a wide range of highway maintenance services in the UK. The WJ Group consists of several independent companies with over 500 employees across 11 depots throughout the UK, the largest of which is located in Knutton, right on Keele University's doorstep. WJ also have a joint venture business with a Belgium product manufacturer.

The company’s first experience of Keele internships was in 2017, after attending one of the University’s career fairs. Their first interns were Rob Elsby and Georgia Cope, both of whom impressed so much during their placements that they were subsequently offered permanent employment.

Rob, who graduated with a degree in Business Management and Marketing, said: “I’ve really enjoyed working for WJ over these past three years and I’m thrilled to have joined full time. Completing my degree and working in a marketing role allowed me to apply both experiences to the other. I would learn something in University that I could then apply in a practical work environment, whilst also bringing my experiences gained from working at WJ into university.

“I would definitely recommend doing an internship to anyone. Like many other students, I could not afford to make it through my degree without work, so securing a job that is also relevant to what I was studying was a huge bonus. You get to find out what your chosen career path may be like and develop the skills you need before graduating.”

Following the success of Rob and Georgia’s internships, WJ provided two further placements for interns in 2018 - Computer Science student Alice Heath, and Environmental Science and International Relations student Mai Vasuvadan.

Alice began working in the Information Technology (IT) department helping WJ with solutions and systems, where she is now an integral part of the IT Support team, whilst Mai joined the Sustainability department working on the development of a carbon footprint model for all the road marking products that WJ manufacture. This model not only helped WJ to understand the embedded carbon within each of their materials but also enabled them to reduce emissions and improve the standards across the sector. The model has since won an industry award.

Mai also worked closely with Rob to develop WJ’s Thinking Community initiative which encourages employees to support their communities through volunteering and other charitable efforts using WJ’s resources to deliver social value.

Paul Aldridge, WJ Sustainability Director, said: “Having two Keele graduates work on this initiative together shows the value of bringing new people into the business with fresh ideas. The initiative has been a resounding success so far and has enabled us to inspire over 25,000 lives through all our charitable efforts and community activities.”

Speaking about WJ’s internship journey, Group Managing Director Wayne Johnston added: “It has been a fantastic opportunity to bring new talent into the business with different skills and a fresh perspective. Even now in 2020 with all the challenges businesses are facing we have been able to continue our internship journey with remote working during the pandemic. We have been able to place seven interns from a diverse range of backgrounds and study areas, including six females in an industry that is too often male-dominated.

Kathy England, Business Engagement Manager at Keele University added: “It has been very encouraging to see a company on our doorstep take the initiative to grow their workforce with Keele students and graduates even during the current global pandemic. We have had excellent feedback from the students and several staff from WJ have supported Keele at our Careers and Business events.”

The success of WJ’s partnership with Keele resulted in them being awarded the ‘Cultivating Talent’ award at the University’s inaugural Breaking the Mould awards in October 2019.

Wayne commented: “To date, all students and graduates from Keele University have proved to be real assets to the business and have helped deliver many new initiatives and move us forward. We hope to continue this relationship with Keele and convey the exciting opportunities arising within the industry for years to come.”

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