A fledgling haulage training company which was set up as a direct result of the collapse of the Redcar steelworks has turned over £1m inside its first 12 months.
Dan Wilcox, 54, was left facing an uncertain future when SSI pulled the plug at the steelworks. He had worked there for five years having started when the operation was relaunched in 2010.
Dan, who had a haulage background behind him prior to working for SSI, sat down with his family to discuss the options open to him; and he was surprised when stepson Matt Switzer suggested teaming up and going into long-distance lorry driving.
Dan said: “That was all I really knew, and at my age there wasn’t a lot of options for me.
“Matt agreed to come on board, and set about sorting out some HGV driving lessons. He did some research, and it turned out he couldn’t get a lesson for three months. I remember it so well, we were sat at home in the conservatory, and it just clicked there and then.
“A shortage of training meant there was a shortage of drivers, it was an obvious gap in the market, and we got our heads together and drew up a business plan.”
Dan and Matt went to the Five Lamps organisation – which was one of the bodies controlling the grant money which was going from SSI towards start-up businesses – and were accepted for £10,000 which helped them get the wheels in motion.
After financing two HGVs, nine former SSI workers were brought on board to learn a new trade followed by eight young trainee drivers all trained in partnership with Hartlepool College of Further Education.
Just 12 months on, Cleveland LGV Training now has 16 trucks, a 19-strong workforce and has turned over £1m by landing lucrative contracts with some large businesses in import/export. The company are predicting to turnover in excess of £2m in their second year.
Dan added: “It has been a phenomenal growth, and one which we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams when the steelworks closed down.
“We had 45 days notice to effectively find a whole new career. I was lucky in a way, I had the HGV background to fall back on and that stood me in good stead.
“We have created job opportunities for lads who were also thrown on the scrapheap by SSI, and to see them earning money with a smile on their faces gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction.
“We’re also indebted to Hartlepool College for their assistance, they backed us when other colleges slammed the door in our face. They looked at our business plan, they were receptive to what we wanted to do, and it’s fantastic to be involved with them.
“A year on, we’re thriving. We have plans for further expansion in the New Year, and we will be working closely with Hartlepool College to create more training opportunities and apprenticeships. It’s an exciting time for us.”
Andy Steel, Vice Principal at Hartlepool College of FE, added: “This is one of the most heart-warming and pleasing employer success stories that the College has been involved with for many years.
“We are very proud of the immense progress Cleveland LGV has made over the last 12 months. Dan and Matt not only had a vision and plan of how they wanted their business to grow, which in itself was impressive, but they were adamant that this plan would be delivered using redundant SSI staff and this was utilised to assist them with their business plan.
“The success over the last 12 months has been nothing short of amazing and we are very pleased to be working with them on some new training and business development initiatives which I’m sure will see further rapid growth for their business.”
Hartlepool College has almost 500 16-18-year-old apprentices working with a multitude of employers across the region each of which are convinced that engaging apprentices is the way forward to develop their business.”