Tornadoes and Apprentices - Projects is Born | The Morson Story - Part Four

Part Four (2)
James Kenealey

by James Kenealey on

Morson Group has been celebrating 50 years in business in 2019. As part of our celebrations, we’ve created a book about the business; its foundations, its growth and its people. 

Over the next six weeks, we’re going to be releasing excerpts from the book, charting the Morson story from its earliest days to the present day.

Morson Projects

Among the most significant developments of this era was the creation of a full in-house design consultancy division under the J. Morson & Co banner. The addition of this division to the existing recruitment side of the business also saw Gerry create an apprentice programme to provide a stream of new in-house talent.

Morson Projects would provide design services to some of the biggest projects in the country in that era, including the Tornado and latterly the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In 1980, Gerry was advertising for jig and tool designers to work on the Tornado fighter aircraft programme for BAE Systems and in February of that year he hired his very first apprentice. That apprentice, a 19-year-old Steve Seddon, rose through the company to his current position of Group Client Services Director.

“At the time, a significant number of potential clients were prevented from taking on contractors because of trade union opposition. So, Gerry recruited contractors himself and set them up as a team. Clients were then able to come to us and buy our project skills as a service”, Steve recalls.

Steve’s first role included three regular tasks. One was to make the brews, in true apprenticeship tradition. The second was to learn to write in the very clear draughtsman’s style. Don’t forget, this was in an era before computers, meaning every drawing was done by hand using pencil or fine ink pen. Clarity of the lettering on those drawings was vital for

the engineers who would later translate them into precision components.

Steve’s third duty was something he remembers with mixed feelings. “I’d take the finished drawings and walk through Eccles precinct with them, along Church Street to Clarendon Road. In the basement there was an A0 machine and I would print out the drawings on translucent film. The prints would go through ammonia dip and come out damp and stinking of the chemical. I spent so many hours doing that job.”

What was the most important thing Steve learned during his early days with Morson? “Working with a team of such competent design engineers was great,” he says. “The atmosphere encouraged people to be like sponges and learn as much as possible and that’s what I did.”

Some large prospects needed persuading the new office had sufficient capability. “To land our first big aerospace client, Gerry went out and got lots of extra drawing boards,” remembers Steve. “Then he went to The Oddfellows Arms and recruited ‘rent-a-crowd’ to put heads on boards when the client visited to check us out.” “Dad won the business,” says Ged Mason, “even though a visitor had spotted one of the ‘draughtsmen’ with a drawing upside down on his board!” Ged also echoes the long-standing Morson belief in the value of apprentices.

“It’s continuing the legacy of my father. It’s our ethos and commitment to finding our bloodline for the future.” – Ged Mason on apprenticeships

During his time with Morson Projects, as the consultancy division later became known, Steve was responsible for hiring lots of apprentices many of whom are still working within the Group today. One of these was Andy Hassall, son of employee #1 Pauline.


Last of the bacon butty smugglers

Not long into this holiday role, Andy was offered an apprenticeship by Morson Projects as an alternative to full-time college and he accepted the same day. He was allowed day release for a part-time ONC in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and, unlike his previous full-time course, this one was reassuringly full. “I wasn’t allowed to draw anything at the beginning” remembers Andy. “My main duties were to make tea, go out for the team’s lunch order and practice my printing.” This consisted of hand lettering numbers and ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ — a sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet. “I did this over and over again for three months,” says Andy. “It felt like a test to see if you were still interested in the job!”

Unlike today, weekend overtime was a firm part of Morson Projects culture in the 1980s. “During busy periods our ideal was 7:30 to 12:30 on Saturday morning, so you’d be away in time for the football,” remembers Andy. “Sundays were even more prized because it was double time.”

If they’d had a few beers the night before, those starting Saturday overtime usually craved a bacon sandwich at their drawing boards, even though it wasn’t allowed. It was at this time the team was working in a recently-built annexe attached to the Clarendon Road building. “I’d come back from the shop with a box of butties and someone would drop a line down from the window to hoist it up,” Andy remembers.

Despite his rule-breaking, Andy did well and by the age of 21 he was a draughtsman leading the mechanical and piping teams. “It sounds young,” he says, “but then I had been in that working environment since I was 16.”

The variety of work, from truck gearboxes to labelling machines to nuclear installations, kept Andy happy, as did the great working atmosphere where people always felt valued. “You worked alongside experienced people who mentored you,” says Andy. “People were taught the ropes on live projects. And Gerry Mason would always come into our office on a Friday without fail. He’d go around every single person showing genuine interest in what they were doing.”

Part five coming soon...

Watch our video'No Finish Line: The Story So Far' and hear the Morson story as told by those who have been part of it

Cx Jobs

Maintenance Engineer

Morson Talent are currently recruiting for a Maintenance Engineer on an initial 12 months FTC basis (Likely to be perm for the right candidate) in the Manchester area. Location Manchester Salary £37,000 + 20% uplift for occasional shift work Hours Days based - Occasional cover shift work (6-2 / 2-10) The Person: * NVQ 3 or above in Engineering ESSENTIAL * Multiskilled - Mechanically / Electrically biased * Various backgrounds considered: Manufacturing, Automotive, Food, Distribution Centres, Automated Warehouse, Recycling, Biomass, Packaging or Printing, Chemical Plant, Brewery, Paper, Manufacturing Plant, Electromechanical / Automated Plant. * Health and safety focused, good awareness and a can do attitude. Desirable: * Bottling, material handling, AGV's, stackers, palletisers * Pneumatics, hydraulics The Job: * Assist with breakdowns maintenance and reliability of electromechanical machinery, equipment, and plant. * Maintenance of various sections of the plant - PPM and fault finding * Monitor production process & machinery performance. * Assist with PPM & breakdown. * Continuous improvement If you are interested in a new opportunity and would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact me directly on 07739311930 or reply with an updated CV.

System Engineer

A Systems Engineer contractor is sought for a contract in Stevenage, Hertfordshire for a SATELLITE DIGITAL PROCESSOR SYSTEM ENGINEER position.Our client seek an expert in digital signal processor design and validation to join the design team responsible for the secure telecommand and telemetry system for a military communication satellite.The role requires an all-round grasp of the digital system, which includes both cryptographic and modem equipment, and its hardware implementation in order to support both system analyses and commissioning of prototype hardware. KEY SKILLS / PROVEN ABILITYProven Ability in any or all of the following topics will be valuable -Failure mode and related system analyses: FMEA / FMECA, single event effects and security analysis;Cryptographic processing and associated security functions;Modem functions (modulation and coding);Implementation of reliable digital signal processing hardware;FPGA-based prototyping and debugging;End-to-end RF communication systems testingSector knowledge: Space / Aerospace / Defence / Communications ADDITIONALTravel - Occasional travel to other UK sitesBase of Work - Following a familiarisation period on site this role will be working from home then working on site once COVID restrictions are lifted by the client - candidates must be able to work on site full time when required

Composite Technician - Aerospace Panels

Morson are currently looking for experienced composite technicians for our client for roles based in Stevenage.Job Profile Assembly and final assembly of sandwich aluminium composite panel production. Inclusive of: - Potting of inserts Bonding of various brackets and equipment Film adhesives Panel completion General hot and cold bonding processes Drilling, reaming etc. High tolerance requirements (typically better than 0.05mm in various areas). Experience Essential:- Ability to work from detailed drawings and electronic work instructions - within specific procedures Experience working to procedures with checkpoints/quality gates Previous experience such as mechanical fitter, close tolerance sheet metal worker, time served mechanical technician Experience in industries such as Space/Aerospace/Automotive/Motorsport etc. Ability to work in confined spaces above floor level Desirable:- Knowledge of satellite structure assemblies or similar Modern apprenticeship Clean room experience Shifts Weekly rotating double day shifts - 06:00hrs to 14:00 hrs 14:00 hrs to 22:00 hrs Some weekend working Saturday or Sunday may be required at peak times. Other There will be a skills test at interview The successful candidate will be required to pass BPSS security clearance before confirmation of contract offer. Free parking is provided for this role in a municipal car park located approximately fifteen minutes' walk from site.

Warehouse Operative

Warehouse operative Principal Responsibilities Health and safety: Must ensure that safe working practices as stipulated by the company are adhered to at all times. Undertake any relevant HSE training as required. Picking: Accurately collect parts from various locations within the warehouse without introducing errors. Packing: To consolidate picked goods in a secure manner for direct shipment to external/internal customers. 100% double check on picked items to achieve very high accuracy levels. Dispatch: Consolidate packages on the relevant pallet and prepare for collection, i.e. pallet wrapping / loading into carrier cages. Goods Inwards: Check deliveries for damage and check against the delivery note to ensure that we have received the correct quantities of the correct products. Using Rf scanners Communication: On a day-to-day basis communication between various departments is normal. Responsibility for dealing with day-to-day enquiries in a friendly yet professional manner applies to all logistics staff. Operation of a Powered industrial truck is desirable if operator holds licence and is authorised. Other key links & experience areas Customer Services Manufacturing/Goods In Carriers/Couriers ISC Office Please note that these roles are currently part time hours from 4pm - 8pm.

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