A strategic partnership – developed in the Black Country – has helped a gas distribution and reinstatement specialist secure a major £2m contract to work on the UK’s premier rail project.
Whitcombe Pipelines (WPL), which employs 160 people at its base in Rowley Regis, tapped into Wolverhampton’s National Infrastructure Solutions (NIS)’ unique ‘Recruit, Train, Retain’ model to pass all the requirements for working on HS2.
The Achilles-registered company will complete reinstatement works for gas pipelines, as well building new access roads and verges.
WPL anticipates more than 40 people will be employed across several project locations at any one time, as it supports the biggest rail revolution in the UK’s modern history.
It marks what has been a major year of growth for the Black Country firm, with sales doubling to £10m over the past twelve months.
Damian Whitcombe, who launched Whitcombe Pipelines in 2018 after learning his trade from his father Ron, commented: “Health and safety, training and compliance are very important features in our sector and come as a prerequisite for working on major rail and infrastructure schemes such as HS2.
“Growing as fast as we are, we need to bring in additional expertise and the relationship with NIS typifies the type of partnerships we are trying to build.
“The training specialist took a lot of time to get to know our business, understand what we require and have subsequently implemented a ‘best-in-class’ training service.”
He continued: “It is a complete approach to training and managing the skills of our expanding workforce and one we highly recommend. Our focus must be the whole picture – recruiting fresh people into the industry, in addition to multi-skilling and upskilling our current workers.
“We also have a dedicated induction process for all staff and have developed a modern, digital skills matrix which is hosted by an app that clearly displays everyone’s qualifications. The app gives an automated traffic light system for when training competencies need renewing to help keep us and our workforce compliant.”
HS2 isn’t the only big win secured by Whitcombe Pipeline in recent months, with a touch of innovation helping it impress Cadent.
National Infrastructure Solutions, which provides specialist training for the rail, infrastructure and construction sectors, was again heavily involved, developing a workflow app for the UK’s largest gas distribution network’s design and build process.
This delivered a multi-user reporting application that allows the user to conduct surveys, and arrange appointments, whilst also supporting planning and delivery of reinstatement works.
The app allows operatives to upload picture evidence and information is then collated into a single job card report that ensures the client receives a ‘right first time’ approach to work and customers enjoy a first-class experience.
Matt Wright, Operations Director at NIS, went on to add: “Companies can sometimes see training and qualifications as a burden, but we have turned the tables on this view through the power of technology and being able to offer everything in one place.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to improve training standards for rail and infrastructure workers and our MD, Davie Carns, is passionate about ensuring delegates can confidently take new skills into their work environment. By doing so, NIS are aiding progression amongst the workforce and improving lives which is a key aspect of our daily approach.
“Our close working relationship with the City of Wolverhampton College (CoWC) and the West Midlands Combined Authority has allowed companies like WPL to grow through recruitment, training and development of new and existing staff. This can only have a positive impact on the region and its people’”
Damian concluded: “NIS has increased our ability to attract fresh talent to our sector while ensuring compliance amongst our current workforce. This has been vital when tendering for both HS2 and other rail work as it gives us an easy way of demonstrating a forward-thinking approach and competency compliance across our current workers.
“We also used its expertise to create a bespoke Leadership Academy to develop our business unit leaders and senior managers.”
Whitcombe Pipelines and NIS are in discussions about introducing bespoke industry specific courses to support WPL’s move into major civil engineering projects across the West Midlands and beyond.
For further information, please visit www.nisgroup.co.uk