Help | News | Credits | Search | Guestbook | Forum | Shop | Contact Us | Welcome

Westwood Works 1903-2003

Language Training

The need for Language Training

Exports had been an important part of the business of Westwood Works since the early days of the century. Increasing amounts of equipment were being shipped to customers all around the world and the requirement for business to be done in foreign languages grew rapidly.

For a number of years the products of the UK factories had been sold through Baker Perkins Exports (later called Baker Perkins International) with offices in Stanhope Gate, just off Park Lane, London. Trade worldwide was managed through Regional Directors knowledgeable in export business and fluent in the appropriate foreign languages. However, as international business and customer needs became more complex, it was clear that the providers of equipment needed to have direct contact with, and a greater understanding of, the end user if the company was to remain internationally competitive.

In 1971, and the responsibility for international sales was given to the operating divisions and many of the Export Company personnel moved to Westwood. Work began on assimilating from the new staff from London the necessary expertise in the techniques of international marketing and selling, together with the relevant commercial exporting procedures - insurance, export credit guarantees, documentation, shipping, etc., Much use was made of both internal and external training courses to accelerate the change.

Language Training is brought in-house

Prior to this, the need for foreign language training for employees who would now have direct contact with overseas customers had been recognised and it was decided to bring language training into the company. Staff from Peterborough Technical College came into the Management Training Centre of Baker Perkins Holdings each day and taught small groups in German, French, Italian and later Spanish, at beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. Exams were taken - primarily oral, with external examiners from the London Chamber of Commerce. Elementary equated to about GCE "O" level, Intermediate to about GCE "A" level and Advanced to a pass degree.

The involvement of Peterborough Technical College

Among the Peterborough Technical College staff who taught the in-company classes were:

German - Bernhard Borman, Peter Robinson and Mrs Maren Coleman. (A BP employee, Frank Depta, also ran a German discussion group at lunchtime for anyone who wanted to participate).

French - Mrs Monique Marks (later Sunderland), Mrs Odette Demar, William Wilson and Kevin Daly.

Italian - Pino Chirico and Mrs Pina Petch.

Spanish - John Richardson and Mrs Paulina Hutchings.

Many Board members, managers, senior staff, engineers and others took part. An important feature was that the college staff themselves became very knowledgeable in the particular vocabulary of the business with real benefits to both sides. In 1962, Baker Perkins joined with Peter Brotherhoods, Frank Perkins and Newall Engineering in providing funding for the first "language laboratory" installed at the Peterborough Technical College. It was opened in June 1964 following 9 months of installation and testing of 2,500 worth of equipment. A.I. Baker and J.F.M. Braithwaite were among those who attended the language laboratory for five hours per week and became proficient in German and French respectively.

In order to test the standard of attainment of pupils using the language laboratory, the Technical College put three candidates from Westwood through an oral examination set by the Chambers of Commerce - an examination well above the accepted standard of GCE "A" level. All three - Alan Deboo, Peter Braithwaite and Archie Baker - passed with flying colours.

Further developments

In 1963, at the same time as the language laboratory came available, the management also introduced a language incentive scheme open to all employees. This provided cash prizes for examination successes and at the higher levels a holiday in the country of the language studied. This had to be a language not previously studied at school or university and undertaken entirely in one's own time. Among the first prizewinners were J.R. Nichols and M.N. Potts of BP Exports and Tony Ratcliffe and Jim Deboo of Westwood Works.

In a few cases where it was essential that someone should be trained quickly to a level of fluency, that person was sent on a full-time intensive ("total immersion") course at a specialist language school, either in London or in the country of the language.

One slightly unusual development of the in-company language classes in 1978/79 was the special course for the company's telephonists. The switchboard operators were getting about 150 to 200 continental calls per week and needed to master the basics of French, German and Italian - enough to recognise the caller's language, give a simple response and put them through to an appropriate person. The six operators spent an hour per week being taught by Peterborough Technical College staff.

At Christmas 1982, Jim Deboo hosted a lunch to mark the beginning of the second decade of in-company language classes. Jim remarked that in the ten years almost 200 employees had taken part in the classes and 100 of them had taken and passed exams; in addition to this, many employees had also studied languages at college evening classes. In thanking the staff for their teaching, he also referred to their written translation and oral interpreting services which the company called upon from time to time, as the company's own translation department no longer existed.

1965: Sir Ivor Baker and Sir Franklin Braithwaite in the PTC Language Lab

Date?: Alison Branson and Carol Beveridge study under Bernhard Borman

All content © the Website Authors unless stated otherwise.