• York Rotary

COVID's industrial impact: the Simpson experience

Brian Houghton reports... I was delighted to have the opportunity to be speakers host on September 3rd when Mike Jaconelli, HSQE executive at Simpsons York Ltd addressed the members.

It was a pleasure to discuss with Mike the SYL progress through the years over lunch. Having known the business from 1960/70s as Simpsons, a small family builder in Bishopthorpe, taken over by Ken Garland in the 70s. They retained the name for a few years before Ron Gatenby moved in. He took over the company during the early eighty’s and developed it as a major national shop fitter under the SYL banner.

As our speaker pointed out, they are far from being a national shop fitting company now but, they carry out major building projects throughout the British Isles whilst continuing to carry out the shop fit out projects.

The problems created by the Pandemic was the main focus of his talk and the major issues it had caused throughout the industry. With the company working on many major sites throughout the country, the decision was made, following government guidelines, to close the company sites down.

Major issues ensuring site security was maintained throughout and introducing Furlough payments to employed staff were but two of the problems Mike and the company faced. As is the way with the building industry now, a lot of staff were self-employed and used by contractors on a project by project basis. They could not be Furloughed which meant a lot moved out of the industry to maintain an income.

The government decided, very soon after lockdown, that it was necessary to keep the industry working provided, the staff could work safely following the government guidelines. That then created a major logistical problem for the industry to re-open the building sites. Obtaining labour at a time when needed. Getting sub-contractors to be on site to dovetail in with others and on top of all that getting the materials to site to allow the project to progress. A logistics nightmare.

SYL continue to be a leading construction company, training a regular throughput of apprentices through their workshops in Dunnington and on site.

There is no doubt the Pandemic has left it’s scars on the industry, lack of tradesmen, materials in short supply, timber prices sky rocketing, at one point 120% increase, although, he said, it has levelled out a bit now.

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