We were incorporated in 2005 and have grown year on year from that point.
We started out working as a sub-contractor working predominantly in the Midlands and then grew to encompass the Midlands and South East before winning our first Tier 1 contract in 2012 with the ESB in Ireland. Following the completion of that contract we won a large Tier 1 contract in the South East with UKPN covering the 132kV network in two of their three areas. Since that point we have grown and during the last round of tenders in 2015 we successfully won the 132kV and 33kV vegetation management contracts across the entire UKPN footprint.
Oakwick are essentially a tree surgery business, we carry out the felling, trimming and shaping that any other tree surgery Company would carry out often in gardens, parks and schools. What makes us unusual, although not unique, is that we have chosen from our very inception to focus on the electrical Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) as our mainstay. Unlike tree surgery companies that focus on the domestic market our work is less seasonal offering year-round cutting to some of the largest DNOs in the country. We employ 35 people directly with another 103 sub-contract cutting staff who are employees of smaller Companies. The services we provide to our clients include not only the day to day maintenance of the vegetation in proximity to the electrical network but also a 24 hour-a-day seven day-a-week emergency response service in case the worst should happen and the integrity of the network be compromised by trees either through unforeseen failures or, through catastrophic events such as high winds and storms.
Utility arboriculture is the management of vegetation in the proximity to overhead powerlines. This means we send our staff to work at height in trees that are close enough to overhead powerlines to cause potential issues with electrical supply and they then use a chainsaw (a large metal object) at arm’s length to remove those branches closest to the overhead powerline. This type of work is very specialised and incredibly dangerous. Not only do the operatives require all the certification, equipment and learning required for an arborist operating in a domestic setting, they also require an understanding of the electrical network in the proximity of which they are operating. This additional requirement for certification can act as a barrier to entry for many, not necessarily due to the difficulty of the testing but due to the lack of necessity for the larger part of the sector.
We are always on the lookout for committed and enthusiastic staff willing to push and challenge themselves on a daily basis. At Oakwick want everybody to feel a valued part of the business and everyone receives a warm welcome and introduction the Company. We work with our staff to ensure they remain focussed and driven and offer training and development throughout their career to ensure that when the time comes for someone to take the next step on the ladder they have all the tools necessary to be a success.
Case Study: Steve, Regional Supervisor
I started working in Utility Arboriculture in July 1991 when I was 16 starting at the bottom as a brash dragger with no qualifications. Since that point I have worked for Companies on all the DNOs in the Country like WPD, SSE and UKPN. Improving myself along the way with a National Diploma and all the certificates required for climbing and cutting trees, working from a MEWP and CSCS training. Having spent 28 years now in the industry and having worked at every level within the business from the lowest level dragging brash to running the whole region of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and the home counties North of London. I feel I can offer a comprehensive insight into the life of a tree-cutter at all levels within the industry.
The basic principle behind what we do is to ensure that trees and powerlines remain a safe distance from each other and that all the work we do is carried out in the safest possible manner. Utility Arboriculture certainly has its dangerous moments: sending a man up a tree near a powerline with 132kV Volts flowing through it with and a piece of metal in your hand is just about as dangerous as we get in the civilian world.
During my years in the industry I have worked in a number of roles. These can be broken down into the following categories:
Operatives: Essentially the tree surgeons, those guys working in a team usually of two although some of three with a climber and a groundsman; one cutting the branches away from the line, the other on the ground managing the site, watching for hazards and clearing brash to make sure all is safe. The guy on the ground also acts as the aerial rescuer should there be an incident leaving the climber incapacitated at height.
Surveyors: Generally lone workers in a van surveying the line ahead of the team ensuring the teams have sufficient work to keep them busy. This a very customer focussed role with a lot of dealing with the public. Either in negotiating consent for the work or in dealing with potential issues that arise during or after the works
Senior Surveyor/Supervisors: Covering a larger area or region planning and booking work and mechanical intervention and dealing with higher level complaints and issues as well as larger stakeholders to ensure they are given the best service and suffer the least disruption possible. This is in addition to carrying out audits and putting teams to work. Also spending time with the Client in the audits and looking at potential additional sites that have been escalated by the Surveyors.
The days can be long in any of the roles sometimes starting at 4am but it is also incredibly rewarding knowing that we are keeping the lights on for millions of people!