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From Fujitsu to a PGCE

JOHN LAMPETT was kicking his heels as a frustrated equipment technician when Fujitsu dropped the bombshell that it was closing its Sedgefield factory.

But just a few days after the announcement, Mr Lampett was plunging himself into the hectic current of school life as a trainee science teacher.

He jumped quickly enough to start his PGCE at Northumbria University this term - two colleagues with HNDs have started two-year degree courses at Sunderland. The Teacher Training Agency asked the universities to follow up this interest with a formal presentation two weeks ago at the plant in Tony Blair's constituency. Half a dozen other workers are now considering teaching.

"It's been a big surprise going back into school after 20 years. I'd forgotten how hectic it is," the 38-year-old admitted. But he added: "I was attracted by the fact that you're busy all the time. When you're fixing things you wait around a lot."

This is the first "rapid response team" following a factory closure, involving the TTA, universities and Employment Service. Such teams are one of five measures launched by the Government last week as a short-term response to the recruitment crisis in teaching. Now they are drawing up a blueprint for other regions to follow.

But redundant workers are warned they may find it harder to get teaching work than they think - despite the widely-reported recruitment crisis.

Redundancies are not new in the North-east - Sunderland and Northumbria used to recruit scientists and engineers laid off from the mining and shipbuilding industries. This is the first time they have worked formally with the Employment Service and offers a small fillip at a time when recruitment to courses is plummeting in most subjects.

Many Fujitsu staff had HNDs or degrees - the firm had sponsored people such as John Lampett through the Open University. But other firms have also provided fertile ground. Fifty workers attended a Sunderland University presentation to a crane builder.

Next stop for Northumbria is likely to be clothing manufacturer Pringle. "On the whole they'll be sewing machinists and won't have the right qualifications," said Professor Hazel Bines, Northumbria's head of teacher education. "But they might have designers, people working with materials and even chemists."

Anyone deciding now to go into teacher training will have to wait until next September to start. In the meantime they will be offered taster courses and encouraged to brush up subject skills - and if they take maths or science, they will be eligible for the Pounds 5,000 incentive announced last week.

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