Redeployment after Rover: a desperate search for new jobs

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
A rescue package is being put together by Midlands colleges to re-train 5,000 workers after the collapse of Rover.

The Learning and Skills Council and more than a dozen colleges set up emergency advice services as the scale of the job losses became clear.

This week, 25 college tutors sat with Jobcentre Plus staff to advise workers from the Longbridge plant, in the south of Birmingham. Staff were seeing around 1,000 workers a day this week.

Near the doomed factory, an outreach centre at Bournville college also went into operation to offer advice. One college principal warned that demand for already over-subscribed courses would put enormous strain on the system unless sufficient funds were made available.

Graham Jones, principal of Sutton Coldfield college, said: "There has been unprecedented co-operation between colleges and the LSC since the threat to Rover became clear.

"A huge number of jobs are available in Birmingham - in the the service industries especially. Many of our vocational courses are oversubscribed already, so it is crucial that funding comes through to support extra provision. Colleges cannot be expected to bank-roll the Rover collapse."

He said many of the procedures put in place in the past week were drawn up the last time Rover's future was in doubt, in 2000.

David Cragg, LSC executive director for Birmingham and Solihull, said: "We have mobilised with the total support of the Midlands FE community.

"It is crucial to support people who want to stay in manufacturing and we want to maximise the incentives to firms that take on Rover workers and its suppliers.

"We are looking to sectors such as aerospace that could take them on - we've got Rolls Royce and Toyota in the area and we've had interest from others, including a rail firm. It is premature to be confident, but I am optimistic."

The LSC will investigate workers' existing skills and how these could create fresh job opportunities in the Midlands.

Manufacturing accounts for a quarter of the business in the West Midlands, so Mr Cragg believes many Rover workers will be able to stay in the sector.

The regional development agency Advantage West Midlands has set up a task-force to ease the crisis. Telephone hotlines have also been set up and online support is available at www.rover-response.info

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