STEELWORKERS are being supported to retrain with a £9m fund from the Government, with business minister Anna Soubry confident the local economy can generate enough replacement work.
The Government and Tata Steel have announced the fund to help Scunthorpe steelworkers, who found out last week they were being made redundant.
Tata Steel’s regeneration arm UK Steel Enterprise has pledged £3 million to support job creation in Scunthorpe.
This will be matched by the UK Government with a £3m fund to support start-up businesses and companies that are looking to expand and create jobs.
They will also provide an extra £3m to train former steelworkers at further education colleges.
Small business minister Anna Soubry, said: “It’s really sad when people lose their jobs but when we have got people who are skilled they have more than the ability to retrain so that they can do other work. That happens throughout the whole of the country on a regular basis. People do in their lives get new skills but obviously it’s very, very bad news that we have lost 900 jobs.”
The Government has asked Baroness Liz Redfern, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, to lead a taskforce which will identify local needs, co-ordinate with UK Steel Enterprise and consider whether additional support may be necessary.
The financial package for Scunthorpe follows an £80m Government fund for Teesside workers who lost their jobs at the SSI steel plant in Redcar to retrain.
Ms Soubry said: “I’ve got complete confidence in the people who live in Scunthorpe and in the people within the taskforce. This is an excellent high skilled workforce. Unfortunately it’s terrible to lose that many jobs, 900 is a huge amount especially for a town like Scunthorpe but I’m confident that this taskforce will do everything that it can foreverybody who is looking to be reemployed.
“Obviously when we’ve got an area of high dependency on one industry you don’t have that diversity, but Scunthorpe is part of a bigger area.
“I’m confident with Baroness Redfearn’s leadership, the businesses and colleges, that we will be able to get new businesses in and new businesses to grow.”
However Roy Rickhuss General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union said the Government’s focus should be protecting jobs within the steel industry and not racing ahead of the current consultation phase.
He said: “Although any support for steel communities is to be welcomed, both Tata Steel and the government are putting the cart before the horse.
“There is still a consultation process to go through and no worker will be redundant until that is completed.
The Scunthorpe jobs have gone in its long-products division, which is responsible for materials commonly used in engineering and construction.
The part of the plant that makes railway tracks is profitable and Ms Soubry said she was determined that section would remain open, considering the High Speed 2 project will use British made steel tracks.