With the country slowly emerging from lockdown, Teesside Rigging & Lifting MD Steve Smith feels his company is in good shape to respond.
For not only are exciting developments in store, he believes it could be a busy year generally, with all sorts of projects opening up again.
Founded in 2008, the firm – based at Stockton’s North Tees Industrial Estate – covers all aspects of steel erecting, rigging, lifting and site services for projects here and abroad.
Along with its acclaimed 6,500 sq ft training centre, it is also a UK leader in offering industry-recognised training courses and accreditations – although much of that slowed around this time last year as the industry came to terms with the Covid-19 situation.
Steve told Tees Business: “It was quite a learning curve, operating through a pandemic. A lot of the training was reduced and put back, while we had a lot of staff working from home.
“It was a case of adapting and trying to see what work we could still do while operating under all the restrictions and guidelines.
“We put in all the relevant safety procedures and stopped the training until we could ensure the safety of our staff and clients, and the guidelines started to be eased. Our critical workers on-site also went through similar processes.
“The HSE manager worked tirelessly to develop a Covid working plan, which along with our clients’ HSE teams allowed us to still have a presence on-site to meet our clients’ requirements.”
But never a firm to stand still, TRL is now poised to take full advantage when business fully opens again – and has exciting plans of its own.
Steve explained: “We’re adding a new staff member to work alongside the experienced team of instructors at our North Tees training centre.”
TRL is also celebrating becoming an end-point assessment centre for apprenticeships.
“Apprentices will come to us from throughout the industry to be assessed and signed off. We have just been approved for this and we are one of the only centres In the UK that has the facility to do this.
“One of our passions is making sure apprentices are brought into the industry and have more work opportunities. With the upsurge in projects like Sizewell, Hinkley Point C and HS2, plus what is happening around here in Teesside, it’s an ideal time to be getting apprentices qualified and ensuring we’re keeping the engineering skills we’ve become famous for in this region.
“We are at a critical point in this industry now. Over the last 10 to 20 years there has been a steady decline in proper apprenticeships and improverships and, in my opinion, we will be very soon experiencing a shortage of skilled and experienced workers.
Along with the situation with Brexit and the additional restrictions this will have on European workers working in the UK, this is now presenting a golden opportunity to invest in our own industries and it’s critical that we invest in a new generation of trades and get young lads and lasses into our industry.
“I’d say that over the next few months there will be a demand for skilled and experienced trades for on-site work – structural steel, fabrication and refurbishment works – but both sides of the business are likely to be busy from now on.
“As the vaccination is rolled out, projects that have been suspended or stopped will need to resume.
“Not only will companies and clients be trying to catch up, but they’ll also have an eye on completing work in case there’s another semi-lockdown as winter approaches.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a busy year, with a big upsurge in requirements for work both onshore and offshore – and we’re ready for it.”