Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright met Martyn Connell, the head of a recruitment firm that aims to support the young in overcoming the barriers to work.
RECRUITMENT firms come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s hard to imagine a company with a wider range of clients than Maze8.
Not all high flying companies are based in the heart of the City. If you don’t believe me, just strap on your boots and head out to Crossley Woods Business Park, where visitors are encouraged to bring an apple for the pigs who live nearby.
Although he describes himself as a typically laid-back New Zealander, Martyn Connell, the firm’s managing director, has quietly built up a rather impressive business empire. From its semi-rural setting in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, Maze8 recruits specialist staff to support young people who are facing barriers to education or training due to family problems.
It finds detached youth workers who work with young people living in Britain’s inner cities, who are at risk of losing their way. Maze8’s workers help to ensure these youngsters find a route to employment or training, which offers them the prospect of a much brighter future.
The company recruits personal advisers who work with young people who are about to leave the care system. Other Maze8 workers support unaccompanied asylum seekers who are trying to find stability in their lives.
Under Mr Connell’s leadership, the company has sponsored student awards at Kirklees College, in Huddersfield, which reflects its commitment to improving the skills base of the community around it.
It works with the Learning Revolution Trust at Newham College in East London, who provide young people with bursaries to enable them to access job and learning opportunities. It’s also a formal business partner of the local football team, Huddersfield Town, which is striving to win a place in the Premier League.
Hard to believe that, when he founded it a decade ago, Mr Connell saw Maze8 as “very much a lifestyle business”.
“I set it up by myself,” he recalled. “As far as being the so-called ‘driven business man’ that’s probably not me.”
Maze8 can take a very broad economic perspective. It has a new power division, which provides commissioning engineers who work on some of the country’s largest substation schemes, as well as onshore and offshore wind farm projects throughout the UK. The company, which has nine staff and turnover of £3.2m, provides a design service to companies working on National Grid and DNO – or Designated Network Operators – frameworks.
“We do work for a lot of the large transmission and distribution companies on various projects around the UK,’’ said Mr Connell.
For years, the UK has suffered from a lack of engineers, which is a tragedy, because the economy is crying out for skilled staff to work on major projects.
As Mr Connell observed: “If somebody has got a very good background in transmission and distribution work, and you’ve got a good reputation as an engineer, then I think pretty much the world is your oyster; maybe not just here in the UK, but also overseas.
“There should be a very close relationship between business and education... we look to try and foster that relationship, between the colleges and engineering. We feel like we’re a conduit between the two.”
In order to take their first steps on to the career ladder, young people often need advice about their appearance and how to plan their trip to work.
“It could be something as simple as buying a suit to go to a job interview or getting a monthly bus pass,’’ said Mr Connell.
“A lot of the work we do is based on providing skills, providing assessors, lecturers and national careers service to educate people and try and give people a good start in life.
“It’s important that, as a business, we foster younger kids coming through.”
In common with all recruitment firms, Maze8 must plan for changes in the UK labour market after Brexit.
“We have partnerships with companies within Europe,’’ said Mr Connell. “What worries me is, ‘Will it be harder for me to utilise their services in two years’ time?’
“The lack of skilled people coming through the educational system, means that we have to rely more and more on companies outside the UK.
“So how is this going to affect my delivery of projects that we are looking at? We’re on a five-year framework agreement. Brexit happens in two years.
“How is that going to affect my business after a two-year period? Am I going to have to start getting visas for engineers to come over just to do something as easy as a design review meeting?
“We would like, as a company, to legitimately and properly, bring people in to this country to do work effectively.”
“What I’m trying to do is look at a way of trying to ensure that the projects that we have, can be finished in a timely and efficient manner. It’s massively important to look at how we can effectively use labour from outside the UK.”
“Whenever we look to take on anyone as a contractor or someone to work through us, we ensure that we find the right person for the right position.”
In terms of geographical positioning, Mr Connell believes that nothing can top Mirfield, with its close-knit community. His journey to work takes about five minutes.
He said: “There’s a saying in New Zealand, which is, ‘No matter what you do, or where you go, things will work out’.
“You find yourself a place and find a little niche as a business. When you’re part of a small community like Mirfield, you get a lot of support from people around the town and from your employees, and friends and family.”
Name: Martyn Connell
Title: Managing Director, maze8 group
Date of birth: January 11, 1969
Education: BA (Hons) Hospitality Business Degree, University of Huddersfield
First job: Helping on a local milk round
Last book read: Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin
Favourite song: Beauty of Grey by Live
Car driven: Mitsubishi Warrior
Favourite holiday destination: Oia, Santorini, Greece
What is the thing you are most proud of: Becoming a father.