Seaham company opens offices in Iraq and Holland as it looks to double workforce in 2020

A Seaham-based recruitment firm has opened offices in Iraq and Holland – just 18 months after the company was created.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 12th January 2020, 10:11 am
SSK Recruitment. Management and staff at the office in Seaham Grange Industrial Estate: (back left to right) Anthony Watson and Russell Pomfret, (sitting left to right) Adam Smith, Angela Mills and Callum Hodgson.

SSK Recruitment began with a staff of two in Peterlee focusing on supplying workers for the region’s large industrial sector, but soon noticed a gap in the market further afield for highly-skilled workers in the oil and gas industry.

Directors took the leap to open an office in Erbil, Iraq, as a gateway to the lucrative oil industry in the Middle East, as well as an office in Rotterdam, Holland, as an opening into the Dutch energy sector.

It’s a gamble that paid off and since March 2018, the company has been able to establish strong business links overseas with officials from the Kurdistan Government and the Department of International Trade - while building its own workforce to 10 abroad and nine in Seaham - as well as moving to larger premises at Seaham Grange Industrial Estate. As contracts roll in, the firm is looking to double that number by 2021 and expand their East Durham office.

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Managing director Adam Smith, who set up the company with Bradley Saunders and Paul Kelly, whose three surnames make up the company name, said: “We started off as a general recruiter, like many companies in this region, focusing on production because it’s such a big industrial area.

“But there’s a lot of companies fishing out of the same pond here and, with Brexit and the ripple effect of the supply chain potentially moving abroad, we jumped at the chance at being a separate entity and getting a foothold in Europe by opening an office in Rotterdam.”

Adam, who lives in Seaham and is passionate about bringing jobs to his home town, said: “For a new company to set up offices in Iraq and Holland, it’s crazy to have achieved that so soon.”

Despite simmering tensions in neighbouring Iran following the US killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, director of operations Russell Pomfret says it’s business as usual for SSK.

Russell, who has lived and worked extensively in the Middle East, said: “Iran is often at boiling point, but things simmer down and it’s an environment you get used to working in. Because of the recent incident, the American workforce have been told to go home, but that’s not the case for us and I plan to go out there at the end of the month.

“Erbil is a bit like an oasis in a war zone and a lot of networking by ex-pats takes place there. We’re on the Government-approved suppliers list which we worked hard for and, as well as Western European contractors, we supply locals too.

“There’s many people out there with the right qualifications and we know how to vet people and give the client what they want.”

As the company looks to build on its success, there are plans to branch into Houston, Texas, which is at the epicentre of the huge American oil industry.