North East workers hit by Alcan smelter closure find new jobs

MORE than three quarters of the workforce made redundant in May following the closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter in Lynemouth have now been "resettled", the firm revealed yesterday.

Craig Thompson, from Ellington
Craig Thompson, from Ellington

MORE than three quarters of the workforce made redundant in May following the closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter in Lynemouth have now been "resettled", the firm revealed yesterday.

The multinational announced in March that the vast Northumberland plant was to be closed following a strategic review of its assets.

Of the 515 workers affected by the decision, some 317 left at the end of May, of whom 78% have now been “resettled”.

John McCabe, regional economic development director at Rio Tinto Alcan, explained: “Some are in our decommissioning team, some have gone into early retirement, many have retrained for new careers, others have set up on their own, while many have joined new companies and work overseas or have moved to take up new positions within Rio Tinto.”

Craig Thompson, from Ellington, is one former employee who has decided to set up a new venture, CT Caravans and Tow Bars, which specialises in caravan maintenance and repair and gas safety checks.

The father-of-two, who worked at the Lynemouth smelter for 15 years as a production operative and then team leader, said the new business would specialise in fitting tow bars to cars, vans and 4x4s.

And the 40-year-old has plenty of experience to draw upon, having previously worked as a motor mechanic before joining Alcan.

Ahead of the launch of the business, Thompson received advice from the internal HR team at Rio Tinto Alcan and from career transition specialists Lee Hecht Harrison, which was appointed at the site to prepare and guide those made unemployed to find new work. Rio Tinto Alcan also agreed to fund £1,500 to put him through two important training programmes – one for caravan maintenance, the second a gas safety course.

He has also been offered the use of a workshop at H&L Charlton Caravan Storage Facility, which is based between Ellington and Lynemouth and is part of a 600-strong caravan site.

“I would like to thank H&L Charlton as they have been a massive help and without them I probably wouldn’t be in this position. I am delighted to be linked with the storage facility as it is by far the best in the area,” Thompson said.

“I have taken a lot of good advice from family and friends and done my homework and I feel I am ready to make this venture work.

“I would like to thank Rio Tinto Alcan for the support it has provided me in recent months and, in particular, to Clare Lowrie, who put in a lot of hard work arranging the two training courses.”

McCabe said: “We’re committed to assisting all our former colleagues who require additional support and advice to either retrain for new careers or, as in the case of Craig, to become self-employed.

“We are delighted that Craig is set to realise his ambition and we wish him all the very best for the future.”

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