Engineering boss pleads for end to uncertainties around Brexit

SES Engineering Northern region director Steve Joyce, left, and MD Andy Wall. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
SES Engineering Northern region director Steve Joyce, left, and MD Andy Wall. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Businesses need clarity when it comes to Brexit so that they can plan ahead, the new boss of a engineering company has said.

Andy Wall, managing director of SES Engineering Services, says the company is cautious given the uncertainty around Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

SES Engineering MD Andy Wall.  13th January 2017. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

SES Engineering MD Andy Wall. 13th January 2017. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Wall said: “We just don’t know what the impact of Brexit will be. So far it has been fairly stable and we’ve not seen any projects cancelled or postponed.

“But because it’s a very unique event we don’t really have any certainty on how the long-term market will be so that is a consideration for us.”

He added that all businesses need clarity in order to enable them to plan.

“The sooner we have that clarity the better we are in terms of being able to plan our future,” he said.

There has been a lot of debate around what the Brexit vote means for the relationship between the UK and wider Europe. Terms such as ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit have been widely used to describe different ways of uncoupling for the EU.

However, Steve Joyce, regional director at SES with responsibility for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “We don’t even know what hard or soft Brexit means at this moment.”

Around 40 per cent of SES’s work is in the public sector with the mechanical and electrical provider working in areas such as education, defence and healthcare.

The business is anticipating an increase in public infrastructure spending.

“We’re anticipating increased spend in infrastructure and it’s certainly a sector we’re looking to target,” Mr Wall, who became managing director in August, said.

“There is a programme of prison work across the country we’re interested in, around super prisons,” he added.

University spending still seems to be quite good, particularly where there is a hi-tech, pharma element to it such as Cambridge, Imperial College London, and institutions in Leeds. Schools are still busy, but fairly flat at the moment.

SES said that university spend still “seems to be quite good” but that the firm is expecting the schools sector to tailor off in the next year.

The rest of the company’s work is comprised of private sector work such as residential developments.

Mr Wall said: “We’re seeing a shift in the market from what was more high-end residential to more, what we call, mid-range residential where we’re looking at a lot of repeatable units for developers.

“That’s a market we are interested in because it certainly helps with our Prism facility.”

Prism is a prefabricated off-site manufacturing facility.

“We do around about £5m-£6m of nuts and bolts type of work through Prism,” said Mr Joyce.

He added: “The benefits of all that are reduced travelling and reduced health and safety 
issues.”

York-based SES was previously owned by Shepherd Building Group. The business was acquired by construction company Wates Group in 2015.

Mr Wall says the company has a business plan in place to reach a turnover of £170m this year with aspirations to grow that further.

He said: “Between 2016 and 2017 we will grow probably around about 20 per cent. There’s an aspiration to move the business as a whole towards the £300m target.”

The growth will be built on a “sound foundation of work”, insists Mr Wall.

Mr Joyce has been with SES for 25 years and he says that it has been “business as usual”, despite a change in ownership in 2015.

There has been further investment in training since Wates came on board, the regional director said.

Prior to joining SES as managing director, Mr Wall was director for the London business of Interserve. Before joining the listed company he spent over 20 years with the Wates Group.

Master of own destiny in skills

A key talking point in the industry is the availability of skills and SES is aiming to become master of its own destiny when it comes to finding the right talent.

The York-based firm has around 30 student engineers working across the business.

Steve Joyce said: “We’ve got a good student intake within our business.

“We also take a significant amount of apprentices on every year. We believe if we breed our own people within our business it gives us the capability to be more flexible and fleet of foot when it comes to the business itself.

“While maybe that’s not happening in the wider construction industry as much, if we do it ourselves we’re masters of our own destiny really.”