How Tees firms have thrived during pandemic with UKSE support

Praise for Tees-based companies that have not only weathered the coronavirus storm but also seen their businesses grow has come from UKSE.

The Tata Steel subsidiary has been helping businesses with investment finance, support from the government’s CBILS scheme and at their two Teesside business centres.

“UKSE’s criteria for investments have always included a strong management team,” said area manager Sarah Thorpe.

“And this crisis has demonstrated how vital that is. Companies in a variety of sectors have not only stayed afloat but also grown thanks to strong management.

“They have been quick to adapt and often seize the opportunity to diversify to protect their business.

“This resilience will continue to benefit companies like those supported by UKSE as we continue through challenging times.”

Simon Corbett set up Orangebox Training four years ago in UKSE’s Innovation Centre at Hartlepool. Faced with the coronavirus threat he took decisive action.

Orangebox had already trained more than 2,000 people, was operating globally and looking to a £1m annual turnover when lockdown closed down classroom courses and work experience opportunities.

“We decided to close down three of our four key training areas and concentrate on warehousing which was growing strongly through contracts with Tesco, Teesport, Hermes, Amazon and others,” said Simon.

“We moved the training online, managing to launch two new platforms to deliver training and register learners within five days.”

Now, with training rooms reopening, the team has grown to 16 and added another six to its bank of 30-plus trainers.

The growth in home deliveries, online shopping, first aid and risk assessment training has brought expansion.

Recently, at Amazon in Darlington, Orangebox placed 84 per cent of the learners who attended interviews into employment. It also has another three major contracts involving thousands of jobs.

Phavour, an innovative mobile platform connecting university students with local job opportunities, was growing successfully at UKSE’s Innovation Centre in Hartlepool when coronavirus hit.

“Initial response had been really good, with jobs in areas from hospitality, engineering, social media and languages to gardening and childminding,” said Lliam Casey.

“Businesses, universities and students had welcomed the easy matching process, secure ratings and payment systems, then everything changed.

“We had to adapt quickly and concentrated on home-working in areas such as design, marketing or IT and we continued to grow.

“We now have a team of eight and expect to number 12 soon. UKSE supported us with extra office space and even helped with furniture.”

Sealpump Engineering, a leading designer of industrial spray systems, moved quickly to develop new products for the battle against coronavirus.

A fogging disinfection system was immediately in demand to sanitise areas from offices, hospitals, care homes and industrial units to trains, airports and ambulances.

Now the company, based in UKSE’s Innovation Centre at Redcar, has launched a walk-through sanitising tunnel for public buildings from airports to offices and entertainment venues.

It includes a facial recognition feature, takes temperatures and can store all information for track and trace purposes.

Director Stephen Larkin said: “Businesses are faced with implementing these extra special measures to protect people and our aim is to provide the effective systems they need.

“We anticipate a big demand for the new sanitising tunnels in particular.”