Employment, skills and rehabilitation specialist Seetec marks its 35th anniversary this month. Since the company was founded in Essex in 1984 offering computer skills training, the landscape for employment, skills and rehabilitation providers has undergone seismic change. Group MD John Baumback, a former apprentice with the company, knows more than most the need for innovation and to embrace change.
Agility is the key to Seetec’s success. Working in the fast and constantly changing world of employment and skills, the company has adapted quickly to seize new opportunities. Starting in business as an IT pioneer, Seetec offered computer and software engineering skills training when the digital revolution was in its infancy. The company branched into writing and selling software, tapping new markets such as GP practices and healthcare providers.
Group Managing Director John Baumback embodies Seetec’s adaptability and flexibility. Starting with the fledgling business as an apprentice a month after it was established, he progressed to become a trainer, software developer, and even ran forklift truck training on his way to becoming IT Director. When Seetec won the contract to run community rehabilitation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex and opened a new Justice Division, John became its Managing Director. This fleetness of foot, from Group MD throughout the senior team, is what keeps Seetec ahead of the game. The company experienced seismic growth when it won three Government contracts for the Work Programme and transformed to become a major provider of employment services. From an £18 million a year business 20 years ago, Seetec has seen exponential growth, increasing turnover by a factor of ten and, with the acquisition of West Country-based disability support provider Pluss earlier this year, seeing staff numbers rise to 2,400.
From a small Essex-based organisation, Seetec now provides services across the country, and has expanded into the Republic of Ireland, delivering JobPath since 2015 and helping more than 25,000 people into full-time and part-time work. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and the toughest part for John has come when changes to Government contracts have meant making staff redundant. “I’ve grown up with the business and there have been some massive challenges, making changes we didn’t want to make,” he said. “It’s been vital to practice what we preach and place our people at the heart of our business, supporting and investing in them to take responsibility for their own lifelong learning.” This commitment to its people has seen Seetec achieving the Gold Investors in People Award in 2016 and 2018, as well as the IiP’s Health and Wellbeing award, which recognises best practice to promote physical, psychological and social wellbeing.
John said: “We have constantly had to change the way we do things and ensure we do things the right way. We have come under a huge amount of scrutiny from commissioners. “Our staff have had to adapt to significant changes of gear. It’s very easy to talk about embracing change, but experiencing it is very different. “To deliver current changes across our three pillars of employability, skills and justice we have gone out to recruit a really strong senior team of passionate people who want to make a difference in our role of improving lives.” The employment profile of Seetec’s customers has changed radically since the days of high unemployment in the 1980s. The organisation now helps people with complex needs, some facing major barriers, including both mental and physical health issues, in being supported towards employment. Apprenticeships too have been transformed with the introduction of the Levy and new Standards. Seetec has focused on industries ranging from aviation and logistics to broadcasting and engineering, aiming to add value to businesses – from large corporates to SMEs - by equipping staff with new skills to meet skills shortages and address future workforce challenges.
John acknowledges there is still a long way to go to convince individuals and business leaders of the value of vocational and lifelong learning – although he says Degree Level apprenticeships are a major step in the right direction. Seetec is well positioned to thrive for the next 35 years, embracing change and new opportunities. John concludes: “Primarily we’re a people business and recognise that our people are our greatest asset. “We’ve got people in the business with that flexibility and ability to adapt to what is needed.”