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On course at Kentec

5 August 2020

On course at Kentec

To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, schools had to shut and send children home during the lockdown, except for those of essential workers. It was the same for other training establishments, including those run by many hire companies.

Typical of these is Kentec Training, a sister operation to award-winning Kentec Hire Services in Tonbridge. However, managing director Steve Booker tells me that demand for training has rebounded sharply and the business is also exploring new opportunities.

Like many organisations, Kentec effectively suspended both its hire and training activities at the end of March, furloughing all employees except for a skeleton staff.

“Customers who had booked training courses were cancelling and requesting refunds of pre-payments. For about three weeks we could only see money flowing out of the business,” says Steve.

Something positive

“Kentec is a third generation family business established by my late father in 1978, and my daughter and two sons are now involved in it. I remember one day in April wondering what the future would hold, but I told myself not to give up and that something positive would happen.

“The very next morning we had a call from a company that required face fit training for NHS Nightingale Hospital staff at the new facility built at the 02 arena. They had to wear special protective masks.

“The client knew we had a team of registered trainers who could undertake this, and they asked us to train 400 doctors, nurses and clinicians on site.

Specialist service

“This face fitting work basically kept our entire training operation fully occupied for six weeks,” says Steve. “After that we received similar calls from other hospitals, dentists and medical facilities who needed this specialist service. We were travelling as far as Milton Keynes and the edge of Hampshire.

“Shortly after the lockdown, the HAE announced that hirers were classified as essential suppliers, and hire business also picked up as building sites re-opened.”

Steve says that the demand for hire equipment was like turning back the clock two decades (something discussed earlier on this blog). “All the DIYers were coming in and all our mixers and rotavators were going out as they tackled projects at home whilst being furloughed.

Best ever month

“April, May and June proved to be really busy. In fact, June was the best ever month in our 42 years of business. I take my hat off to our entire team for their dedication and commitment.”

Social distancing means that training class sizes have to be smaller with typically half the number of delegates per session. However, the volume of work from clients who need to ensure ongoing operator competence should give steady long-term demand.

An outside contractor comes in every evening to deep clean the entire premises. “It takes three people up to two hours, depending on how many of our six classrooms have been used,” says Steve. “They clean absolutely everything and treat surfaces with anti-bacterial sprays.

“We’ve also been audited by a Health & Safety consultancy for our Covid risk assessment policies and procedures.”

Extra courses added

Kentec has introduced some new courses in the wake of the pandemic, including half, one or two-day sessions on Covid-19 prevention at work sites. It also offers mental health awareness training.

“Some contractors who were working on essential services didn’t shut down at all,” says Steve, “and we have been providing PASMA and IPAF courses for them. Many practical sessions normally only have four trainees per instructor, so it’s been relatively easy to observe social distancing by spacing people 2m apart, wearing masks and gloves, and wiping down the equipment regularly.

“We’ve also adapted a warehouse area that we previously used just for practical assembly elements of PASMA tower courses so that it now includes an open classroom area. Instead of doing the theory in a separate room, it’s now all held in one place.

New arrangement works better

“Participants have individual desks and chairs, the overhead projector is beamed on to the wall (pictured above), and they can immediately go over to the equipment after the formal presentations. In fact, trainees say this arrangement works better in many ways and we’ll probably keep it.”

Like many of the companies I’ve been talking to for this blog, Kentec’s bounce back has been rapid.

Interestingly, the Training operation was founded in 2008 - at the start of the last financial crisis. Hire business then had shrunk dramatically, but many contractors took advantage of the quieter conditions to train, re-train and upskill their people.

Identifying that opportunity put Kentec in a strong position back then, and it looks like it is on course for a similar positive outcome now.

On course at Kentec


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