Shipyard firm goes broke but apprenticeships are honoured

JUST a handful of a Merseyside shipyard's apprentices are left after their employer went into receivership. The 25 modern apprentices have been told they can continue their four-year training programmes until completion if they are unable to find alternative employment.

Since Cammell Laird went into receivership last year, the Laird Foundation, the separate training organisation, has been working to match their skills with the local jobs market around the Birkenhead yard.

In the meantime, the training of those who remain continues to be funded by the Learning and Skills Council.

In addition to training costs, the 278 MAs were provided with weekly allowances from the Learning and Skills Council's local initiative fund to compensate for the loss of income from Cammell Laird. This LSC money, while modest, was enough to keep most on the books.

The LSC used its contacts around Merseyside to find employment for those who did not want to complete their MAs - and some were able to find work which built on the skills they had developed at the yard.

The experiences of Merseyside LSC in tackling the aftermath of Cammell Laird will provide valuable experience, to be shared with LSC HQ in Coventry, to help plan similar rescue projects in the future.

Despite the mixed fortunes of Britain's shipbuilding industry, the foundation itself is optimistic about its future, based on the expertise it has developed through its partnership with Cammell Laird.

"We have grown from having one large customer to representing a much wider base of employers, as a hub of training provision in an industry area which, despite what has been happening at Cammell Laird, is expanding overall," said Laird Foundation director Jim Teasdale.

The port and maritime business sector in Merseyside is worth pound;1.2 billion a year, with 566 companies involved, and continues to expand.

Since Cammell Laird went into receivership, around 70 per cent of the MAs have found work elsewhere and 8 per cent have been placed in further training or higher education. There are about 25 trainees left, all of whom have been guaranteed the opportunity to complete their four-year apprenticeships if they wish to.

The yard itself remains unused, having been sold on, but the MAs have still been applying their skills to hands-on maritime projects.

These have included restoring a Second World War German U-Boat, which has been salvaged from the bottom of the sea, and providing wheelchair access for a former Royal Navy frigate on which Argentina's surrender was formally accepted at the end of the Falklands conflict.

The frigate now serves as a floating museum.

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