It may be that the concept of a job for life has long gone for most people, but not in the case of Shaun Beauchamp and John Clapham. Both have just celebrated their 30th year working for Norco, and to hear them speak you could be forgiven for thinking they have another 30 years in them!
Both Shaun and John joined Norco in its very early days, when the company had just been formed by Mark’s father Bill Northey. John, who by a couple of months is the senior statesman, recounts what is was like to work at Norco then: “We did pretty much everything, because there was only about 6 of us at the time. So we were toolmaker, laminator, finisher, despatcher… you name it we did it! John was friends with Bill and only joined because Bill asked him to: “I thought it would only be for a few months” he says with a wry grin “but now look at me, 30 years later”.
Shaun takes up the story of the early years: “the company was basically a boat builder and started to supply Sunseeker when they leapt from 35 to 52ft boats and became much more production orientated. As Sunseeker grew, so Norco had to in order to keep pace with demand. In the late 1990’s, Mark purchased a new factory in Hamworthy and by then the workforce had grown to about 50”. Along with the various marine work, Norco had also started to work with ECB on developing equine and human spas, a business that continues to this day.
With the arrival of Mark, the business continued to grow and the introduction of departments meant both John and Shaun became more specialised. Shaun says “this was a necessity as the company grew, but in some ways it is a shame cross-skilling only occurs occasionally now. It certainly teaches you to appreciate a good product.”
By the mid 2000’s another facet of the Norco business – its training capability – had really taken off. Shaun comments: “there was such a skills shortage, the only way we could get the required experts was to train them ourselves”. Having developed its own training packages right up to NVQ level, the worldwide recession affected Norco just as it did for many other businesses, and the training centre became another production centre.
It is interesting to hear John and Shaun talk about production methods and how they have changed in 30 years (or not in some cases). “Customers have become more demanding with materials, and the core materials have changed” Shaun comments “but the basic GRP method of hand layup hasn’t changed in 30 years, as it’s the best way to do it”. The growth for Norco since 2010 has really come about with the evolution of the Composites Centre and Norco’s diversification into markets such as the aerospace, defence and renewable energy sectors. John adds “it is fantastic to see how this local family-owned business has been transformed into a leading composites and GRP manufacturer, employing over 160 people. Norco is a real success story and I am confident it will only continue to prosper in the future”. Shaun’s final comment seems to sum up Norco: “When you look back at what has been achieved, you can only be very proud to work for such a company.”
Mark was keen to add his comments on Shaun and John:
“Shaun has been my right-hand man for the last 20 years, I have the utmost respect for him and his loyalty and commitment have been exemplary. We would not be the success we are today without his support. I remember when I discussed with him about becoming Production Manager, there was just my Mother and I in the office in those days and we shared one computer!”
“John is and always has been a highly skilled and respected craftsman in his field and it is great people like John that inspired us to start the Training Centre back in 1999 so we could build the company with equivalent skills. One day I will ensure there is a “Lion Head Award” for Trainee of The Year!”