Centre Square helps business scale new heights

A Stockton scaffolding company says working on a new landmark development will both build its reputation and provide a foundation for its apprentices’ careers.  

JMAC Scaffolding is one of a dozen North East businesses involved in the construction of the four-storey 6 Centre Square in the heart of Middlesbrough. 

When it is finished early next year it will become the regional HQ of insurance giant AXA UK and 450 of its staff will move there.

They will join around 1,000 office workers who are already based in Centre Square’s two completed buildings. 

Work on the new multi-million pound building began in January.  The main contractor is Bowmer+Kirkland, which has a North East regional office near Sunderland.  It has sub-contracted 90% of the project to businesses based in the region. Together they will receive   £6.25m. 

More than 60% of the work has gone to companies – such as JMAC – which are located within 30 miles of Middlesbrough.  Those contracts are worth £4.4m.

JMAC Construction Director Aaron Kitson said securing the Centre Square contract represented a major breakthrough for his company: “We’d wanted to work with Bowmer+Kirkland for a long time and we were also determined to be involved in one of the biggest projects in Middlesbrough, which is right on our doorstep.”

JMAC was founded by James McCarthy Senior in 1981. His grandson Luis is the current managing director for JMAC Group, which includes JMAC Scaffolding and JMAC Safety Systems. The JMAC Group employs 170 people from the Teesside area, including five apprentices, and plans to recruit a further five apprentices later this year. JMAC is looking to increase its apprentice intake to between 15 and 20 per year.

“Our best scaffolders are ones that we’ve home grown.  We bring them through, we train them ourselves and within five years we shouldn’t have any problems with a shortage of skilled labour,” said Mr Kitson, who joined the company as a scaffolder and rose through the ranks to become a director.

All of the apprentices start their careers with a stint at JMAC’s yard.  There – as well as beginning their training – the company makes sure they demonstrate the right attitude and work ethic.  “We can’t teach that,” said Mr Kitson.  “You have to enjoy what you do, otherwise it’s a long day – particularly in the winter.” With the most workplace deaths caused by falling from a height, safety training for the young scaffolders is a priority.

The new recruits spend time with different teams of experienced scaffolders working across JMAC’s residential, industrial and commercial contracts, such as Centre Square.

Eighteen-year-old apprentice Tom Payne from Hartlepool said: “You’re learning something new every day.” Louie Peebles, also 18, who lives in Stockton, said: “It’s outdoors.  It’s very physical.  The people and supervision are nice and friendly.  I get on with them really well and they’re willing to teach you.” Cameron Blyth, 17, from Billingham, said: “I wasn’t that keen on heights when I started, but I’m getting more confident now thanks to the team around me”

The Centre Square development was launched six years ago by developer Ashall Projects in partnership with Middlesbrough Council.

Managing Director Mark Ashall said: “The benefits are already being felt – from the young scaffolders starting out on their careers to the professional services companies looking forward to growing their businesses after moving into Centre Square.

“We are creating high quality and sustainable office environments which are proving highly attractive to employers who have quickly transformed Centre Square into the business hub of Teesside. They are providing well-paid jobs and that new spending power will also benefit the shops and restaurants which are just a short walk from the offices.”

Although AXA has taken much of the space in 6 Centre Square, 14,000 sq ft is still available.  Details of the next phase of the development are due to be announced soon.  Outline planning permission is already in place.