A £1m investment to capitalise on opportunities in the offshore wind sector has been unveiled in the North East.

Wescott Coatings and Training Services, which celebrates its 5th birthday this year, has officially opened its new head office and extended training centre on Tyne Point Industrial Estate in Jarrow.

Supported by funding from GROW:OffshoreWind, the company now has access to dedicated training rooms, practical workshops and specialist blasting and spray chambers, not to mention the UK’s only rope access facility that creates real life working rigging scenarios.

This investment will help it to increase turnover from £1.8m to £3.5m and has already created 16 permanent jobs and up to 100 contractor positions on specialist projects.

Tom Whittleton, who runs the business with his wife Debbie, commented:

“We’ve enjoyed rapid growth over the last 12 months and spotted the opportunity to create a dedicated training centre that could train up to 1000 people every year for working in the offshore, oil and gas, wind, marine, renewables and rail sectors.

“There’s lots of new business being generated in these industries and we are now in a perfect position to take advantage of it, giving local people the chance to develop the skills they need to be a success in these fields.

“In addition to the facilities in the North East, we have also spent £500,000 on two new bases in Norfolk and Northern Ireland, ensuring we can provide specialist provision in these geographical locations.”

Wescott Coatings and Training Services turned to GROW:OffshoreWind for support in making the new centre a reality, tapping into a £190,000 grant from the Flexible Enabling Fund.

Specialist Advisor Alan Whittaker was introduced to the company by Cllr Jim Foreman and immediately reviewed the proposal, providing strategic support and help with the funding bid.

This included collating information for the application and assistance with maximising the layout of the head office and the training centre.

Tom continued: “GROW was massive help and speeded up the project by about six months…this means we are first to market with this training offer.

“Being a relatively small company, it was great to use a specialist like Alan to oversee the bid and provide impartial advice on what we were planning and how to implement it. We will continue to work with him and his team to make the most of his project and achieve our aim of £5m turnover by 2018.”

GROW:OffshoreWind is delivered by Grant Thornton and programme partners the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Renewable UK and the University of Sheffield.

Working closely with Government and industry leaders, the service has been instrumental in raising the profile of offshore wind and how suppliers can tap into £bn of opportunities slowly coming to fruition in and around the UK’s coasts.

Fern Doherty, Investment Panel Manager, added her support: “One of our roles is to help the supply chain build capability and this funding has unlocked a major new skills provision for the UK.

“Wescott is a fantastic example of a forward looking SME, who has spotted an opportunity and is now going after it. New jobs have already been created and more will undoubtedly follow as a result of our support.”

Wescott Coatings specialise in painting and blasting maintenance, project management and manpower solutions for clients in the offshore, oil and gas, renewable energy, marine and network rail sectors.

The firm’s training arm also offers industry-recognised qualifications, such as ICATS, Train the Painter, Working at Height and ECITB courses.