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The power of partnership

Strong partnerships are crucial to business success. Just ask WHP Engineering. Working closely with specialist recruitment and outsourced people services partner Jackson Hogg, the leading bioprocess firm has expanded its workforce and market presence in recent years – with further growth in the pipeline – thanks to the latter’s flagship Talent Partnership programme and associated support channels. Here, Steven Hugill speaks to WHP Engineering chief executive Ian Lichfield, and Jackson Hogg’s chief operating officer Anthony Broadhead and senior talent partner Matt Robson, to find out more.


Ian Lichfield is running a little late, a technology glitch denying him access to a video call.

Jumping into support mode, Anthony Broadhead picks up his phone, dialling Ian’s number to help him bypass his digital dead-end.

The scene provides a wonderful insight into the duo’s relationship, and the wider bonds between their respective companies.

For six years, as chief executive of WHP Engineering, the UK’s leading bioprocess engineering firm, Ian has engaged the support of Anthony and the wider team at specialist recruitment and outsourced people services partner Jackson Hogg.

It’s an association that transcends the transactional, that melds the professional with the personal, that goes beyond the commercial to the cultural.

The alliance began when WHP Engineering became the first company to join Jackson Hogg’s now flagship Talent Partnership programme.

In the period since, the Gateshead-based operator has grown significantly, noteworthy financial successes matched by equally momentous expansion across the life science sector that saw work to build the Oxford Biomedica production plant – which made the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot – complemented by a project to design the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre.

And, says Ian, it is no coincidence.

He cites the potency of its Talent Partnership venture, through which former professional footballer-turned-Jackson Hogg senior talent partner Matt Robson has become embedded within WHP Engineering’s everyday operations.

Sitting on-site alongside senior figures up to four days a week, the former Hartlepool United and Carlisle United player is at one with WHP Engineering’s operational and cultural environments, using his accrued knowledge to meet its exacting recruitment needs in an ever-changing marketplace.

Ian says: “As a contracting business, we operate in a tough environment.

“And that is where Matt’s support is so valuable; his background in football means he is very resilient.

“He comes with a can-do attitude; if someone hits him with a sliding tackle, he gets straight back up, and that fits really well with our ethos.

“He’s part of our team – he’s Jackson Hogg through and through, but he plays for us too.”

Matt is equally effusive, reiterating how he is bringing a mindset fashioned on the football field into play.

He says: “The importance of the day-to-day life experiences I gained during my football career – the conversations I had, the learnings I took from matches and training, and the work I put in to get to the top of my game and stay there – are just as valuable and transferable to recruitment.

“And I’m enjoying using them to support WHP Engineering.

“We’ve got a great relationship, and being a part of the team really helps with that.”

Ian adds: “Our relationship didn’t come overnight; it has developed over time.

“A few years ago, Matt wasn’t directly involved in recruitment discussions, but he is now central to the conversation.

“It’s a trust thing; we trust Jackson Hogg and Matt to do the right thing.

“And it has helped us through some difficult times.

“There have been some ups and downs, but I know if I have a problem that I can speak to the guys at Jackson Hogg, and they will do their damnedest to help.

“They always try to do the right thing; sometimes those options might not be the best option for Jackson Hogg, but they make choices to benefit us.”

The partnership, though, goes beyond sourcing staff, with Ian hailing Jackson Hogg’s wider support in helping WHP Engineering’s “radical” ascent to the forefront of the bioprocess sector and achieving other goals too, which include a recently-opened office on Billingham’s Belasis Hall Technology Park.

He says: “Jackson Hogg has given us a lot of help, above and beyond merely sending CVs over.

“It has helped develop our mindset and culture, by shaping things around benefits packages, where we should be positioning ourselves as a business and how we should be marketing ourselves to talent.

“And our new Teesside office came from a conversation with Anthony.

“I asked him where he thought best to locate, and he gave me a tour of Belasis Hall Technology Park.”

However, the relationship, says Anthony, is very much a mutual one.

Today, Jackson Hogg – which recently moved to Wallsend’s Cobalt Business Exchange and switched to a four-day week while retaining full staff pay – is a major player in the world of recruitment, both domestically and internationally, thanks to its delivery of candidates for professional entry to board level roles across the science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM) sectors.

And Anthony says such growth is, in no small part, down to its work with WHP Engineering.

He says: “Ian and the team have been strategically critical in our growth.

“We will never be made up of one client, but WHP Engineering’s influence has certainly been very important in helping develop our solutions, the way we operate and the values we hold.

“A whole host of things have come from the relationship, not least a great amount of marketplace credibility from the longevity of our partnership.

“And it is no exaggeration to say WHP Engineering was part of the catalyst for us to enter the life science and STEM sectors.

“Working with the business, and understanding more about its fantastic projects, certainly gave us a push to launch our science division two years ago.”

Anthony adds: “Our relationship goes far beyond a transactional agreement.

“It has evolved – and continues to do so – and we’re excited to see what the future holds.”