The Festival of Learning is a national celebration of lifelong learning and a time where many businesses reflected on the success of those employees who have been through training or development programmes helping to push them to the next level of their career.
When we think of lifelong learning at work and ongoing career progression, one name in particular jumps to mind as an outstanding success story.
Ashleigh Sweeney joined J&B Recycling back in 2005 and from her first role on the weighbridge as a 16 year old, has progressed through the company to become J&B’s Operations Manager, all before reaching 30.
“I started at J&B straight out at school at the tender age of 16. I left school with my GCSEs but I didn’t go to college as I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do.
"The big dream at 16 was to become a red coat at Butlins but I wasn’t old enough at the time, so I started at J&B thinking it would be a bit of a stop gap until I could go on to make the dream a reality. As it turned out, I really enjoyed my job and working for the company hence I’m still here today.
"My first position in the company was as the office junior, working on the weighbridge and doing basic administration. From there I spent a brief period of time raising invoices and processing purchases papers, before moving over in to transport and working as a transport co-ordinator.
"From working in transport I took on the big role as J&B’s facilities manager, managing all systems within the business. I really flourished within this role and quickly progressed through to Environmental and Quality Manager which is when I became heavily involved in J&B’s ISO, supporting the business through its constant transitions in complying with the latest standards.
"My current role is Operations Manager, over seeing all the operations within the business. I’m based at J&B’s head Office in Hartlepool and most of my work concentrates on the company’s largest MRF on Windermere Road in the town. My role is really diverse and covers everything from monitoring throughput, efficiencies, and quality, and ensuring compliance.
"Learning at work has been a huge part of my time at J&B. Since starting with the company I have completed a NVQ Level 2 in Recycling Operations and another in Traffic Office, and after that I went on to complete a Level 3 in Customer Service.
J&B also put me through a post-graduate degree in Business Management, and lastly they put me through my WAMITAB in the transfer and treatment of non-hazardous waste.
"Yet what has made the biggest difference to me and has helped me progress through the business hasn’t been the qualifications that I’ve gained, but the support I’ve received along the way.
"Vikki and the team here have invested a massive amount of time in me, making sure that I’ve always had the support I needed.
"Getting knowledge first hand and learning from successful inspirational people has made such an incredible difference to my career. With every step, I have taken within the business, knowing that those around me believed in me and my ability gave me the drive and confidence to progress.
“I believe that giving someone your time is one of the biggest contributing factors to making a successful team, and as I’m pretty sure I've carried out most of the jobs in the company at one point or another, I never say ‘that's not my job’ and I am always around to lend a hand and pass on my knowledge.
"In terms of future learning at work, I’m not too sure. Even though I have been at J&B for as long as I have, there’s still a lot of things to learn and areas that I can grow in. What I do know is that if I wanted to go on a development course, or carry out training to learn a new skill, the company would be behind me, pushing me to be the best I can be.
"I still don’t know what I want to do next but at the minute I really enjoy my role and I’m happy.
"Maybe one day I’ll be able to progress to a Director, maybe even Managing Director, but what I do know is that I want to continue my journey with J&B.
We have achieved so much together and there is plenty more still to come."
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