Ashorne Hill

In the history section of their website, Ashorne Hill describe themselves as the Bletchley Park for the steel industry during its use of coordinating steel production for the war effort. Since then it’s been in the hands of British Steel and its various incarnations and has been a training centre since 1957. I don’t know what its current relationship to Tata Steel is, although my impression is that it’s at least semi-independent.

When I joined British Steel in 1996 it was still common place for people to go to week-long courses there, and that’s what happened to me in my first few months as Team Leader at Tinplate R&D. I can’t really remember the exact content of the course but it was something like a “getting to know the business” type of course. But, as I’ll come to in a later blog, what I can’t apply I tend to forget, and that’s the case with this course.

The next one was a week’s session aimed at improving communication between the technical and the customer side of British Steel Tinplate. What stuck in my head was how Tony Vickers (the Managing Director of British Steel Tinplate) didn’t know who I was, even though by then I had been in the job for more than a year, but did know a number of female graduates who had been in the central office for a mere few months. It made me realise how isolated from the production plants we were in Tinplate R&D as lodgers in Welsh Labs.

The only course I definitely benefited from was the “Improving Personal Effectiveness” course, which happened in two separate weeks, one in October and one in December 1998. This was done in an effort to mend my fraying relationship with my boss David Jones, presumably thinking that if I pulled my socks up, things would get better. I did learn a couple of things about myself, but in the end, David Jones did not change and it was not too much longer before I was seconded to Ebbw Vale.

The last course I attended in Ebbw Vale was during the first year of Corus’ existence, where we attended the Cold Rolling course as part of the Product Development Team from Ebbw Vale. It was notable for the fact that for the first time some Dutch colleagues attended – despite all the facilities they had in IJmuiden, I had the impression it did not include a conference centre like Ashorne Hill.

The course was also notable for for its timing : while we were there on the course, the first set of redundancies in Ebbw Vale were being announced, which made everyone involved feel a bit uneasy, even if we as a team were not one of the victims.

Anyhow, that was the last time I attended a course there, and apart from a short stop-over for a discussion on Single Source (it was a convenient midway point between the South Wales and the north-eastern part of the UK business) I never went there again. My impression is that over time, Ashorne Hill was encouraged to be become more self-sufficient, meaning that it became a training centre for other companies and the attendance by British Steel and its successors became a less dominant source of income.

All I know is that when I attended a Hot Rolling course in 2003, it didn’t take place in Ashorne Hill but in Brookfield Manor near Sheffield. Not sure why, and not even sure whether the changing status of Ashorne Hill versus Corus had anything to do with it, but in the end I don’t think I missed these week-long courses away from home. It may have been novel once or twice, but after the novelty wore off, it was a bit of a drag. Maybe in the end Corus decided that money was better spent on more targeted courses closer to home (although I’m sure that generalised graduate courses were still on the menu).


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