Behind the scenes, thousands of hours of work have gone into finding new roles for 940 BAE Systems
workers, business reporter Claire French reports
Six thousand hours of advice have been dedicated to supporting shipyard workers since its closure was announced last November.
Despite the bleak outlook for workers at the end of last year, BAE Systems says it has helped hundreds of members of staff freshen up their CVs, improve their interview techniques and really sell themselves to potential employers.
And for many of them, the hard work has paid off, with 180 Portsmouth workers so far securing new roles, including 140 in the company’s Maritime Services business.
The company says 70 per cent of the 940 people facing redundancy have had their jobs ‘mitigated’, meaning they have found a new job, are being retrained, or have accepted the offer of taking voluntary redundancy.
In November last year, BAE announced it was closing its shipbuilding arm in Portsmouth. Its other main division, Maritime Services, will remain.
Retraining has been a way to take advantage of the situation for almost a dozen of those people affected.
As a result of the shipyard closure announcement at the end of last year, 11 members of staff have been given the chance to enhance their skills.
Waterlooville resident Brian Mill is one of those about to start a period of retraining.
He joined BAE Systems six years ago as a welder, working on the Oman Khareef and then HMS Queen Elizabeth class programmes.
The 46-year-old is one of five Naval Ships employees about to start retraining as a trainee combat systems engineer.
Brian is a trade union safety and learning representative and first found out about the opportunity as part of the regular company consultation meetings.
He says: ‘When I first heard about the roles, I literally couldn’t believe what a great opportunity it was.
‘You don’t often get the chance to completely change your career, so to be fully trained and supported through it, while earning a salary is an amazing opportunity.’
Recruitment fairs organised for workers were popular, with 100 firms turning up to meet potential employees.
A website set up to showcase the talent of employees has also secured a further 13 jobs for people who may have otherwise faced redundancy.
So far, 70 people have been given compulsory redundancy.
As the final blocks of HMS Prince of Wales are moved from the city to Rosyth shipyard in Scotland, more redundancies may have to be made.
Mick Ord, managing director of BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: ‘We have made positive progress in supporting employees to retrain or redeploy to alternative positions within BAE Systems and to find roles with external companies.
‘We are committed to continuing our extensive efforts with our trade unions, employees and external stakeholders to explore all potential opportunities for further mitigation to minimise the need for compulsory redundancies.’
The shipyard is set to close by the end of the year.
The marketers appointed by the government to find a new company to take over the site has heard from eight interested parties so far.
But a decision is yet to be made regarding who will take over the shipyard.
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, said she is happy with the progress made so far. I think they have done a good job,’ she said.
‘The people who have worked on these ships have been highly qualified.
‘It is no surprise that people have been retained by BAE or will have been recruited by other firms.
‘I wanted them to have an alternative employer in the shipyard sooner and it meant that we would not have to work so hard now to get the skills back once the shipyard closes.
‘The other thing I was pleased with was that they are going to move apprentices into the maintenance side of the business.’
Donna Jones, leader of the city council and a director of Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, said despite the announcement of 940 job losses, some of the consequences have been positive.
She said: ‘While it is deeply sad to be losing a specialist skill such a shipbuilding in the city, I think we need to focus on the number of positives that have arisen from BAE’s announcement to end shipbuilding here.
‘Many employees are taking redundancy packages towards the end of their careers and are being compensated for it.
‘The government has acted responsibly to the Portsmouth shipyard situation.’
Trade unions have also played a large part in helping to secure roles for workers and vocalise the concerns of their members.
John Ferrett, negotiator for the Prospect union and Labour group leader at Portsmouth City Council, said unions and BAE Systems have worked well together, but said there was still concern about jobs and skills being lost.
‘As unions we have worked really hard on this issue with BAE Systems to make sure every member of staff is given an opportunity to retrain or be given a new role within the company,’ he said.
‘I think we have worked really well together. I think both parties recognise it was a political decision to close the shipyard so we have had to work together to try and deal with that as best as we could.
‘We do appreciate the help they have given workers to help retrain or redeploy them.
‘We would like to keep these jobs in the naval base building ships and we want to make sure that they can continue working for the company.
‘We are concerned by the way it is being presented about jobs being ‘mitigated’.
‘We do not see voluntary redundancy as mitigation because that job is being lost.
‘It means that they leave the business sooner rather than later and are not going straight into work. We need to be honest in terms of the number of jobs being lost.
‘If we look at the number of people being put into roles on the other side of the business, that is a small number of people.’
Moving over: Merrick Trevaskis
FOR the last five years, Merrick Trevaskis has been an IT administrator in BAE Systems’ Naval Ships business.
The company says he has become an invaluable support to colleagues over that time.
Merrick, who is 27, focuses on supporting his team and his customer focus will be essential as he starts a new role in the company’s Maritime Services business this month.
The Southsea resident will take on the role of software governance advisor in the Maritime Services arm of the company, supporting employees using certain types of software.
‘I’m going to be responsible for software procurement and licencing,’ said Merrick.
‘The most important thing is that I’ll be able to support different teams across the business, spend time to genuinely understand their needs and be able to support them in delivering business critical activities that need specialist tools and capabilities.’
Merrick saw the role advertised on BAE Systems’ redeployment website.
Merrick said: ‘I found the portal really easy to use and I was able to access it from home as well as at work. I also took time to talk to people about the role.
‘A real game changer for me though was the one-to-one coaching from the team at the employee assistance centre.
‘I had been to a CV writing workshop and an interview skills workshop, which were really helpful, but the fact they offered a tailored session was a key factor in my approach to applying for my new role.
‘Mark, my coach, spent a couple of hours with me and opened my eyes to things that I’d not considered before.
‘One thing he helped me with was preparing stories, which I could use in competency-based interviews when I was asked to give examples of my career experiences.
‘I was initially a bit sceptical, but the service felt really personal and right the way through the process of transferring to Maritime Services the teams involved have been supportive.’
New role: Karen Bevan
WHEN Karen Bevan was told her role as an administrator in the shipbuilding team was coming to an end, she did not know what the future might hold.
However, as she starts her new role in business assurance at the company’s Maritime Services arm, she says all that uncertainty seems like a lifetime ago.
Karen, who lives in Gosport, has just started her systems co-ordinator role, and she’s quick to acknowledge what she feels has helped her secure her first role in the world of business assurance.
Karen, 49, says she checked the BAE Systems Redeployment Portal daily to see what new vacancies were coming up.
Karen said: ‘I was looking for something that would give me a stepping stone into the world of business assurance, so when this role came up, I knew I had to go for it.
‘I’d undertaken some courses for designed for internal auditors and a quality lead auditor so this was exactly what I was looking for.’
Once Karen had seen the role, she went along to a CV and interview skills workshops at the BAE employee assistance centre.
She said: ‘I thought my CV was in really good shape, especially as I had attended one of the workshops about them, but one of the coaches I spoke to really helped me bring out what’s important.
‘They asked me to think about the role, what it involves, and then to think about experiences in the past where I had completed similar tasks or roles.
‘I am sure that rewriting my CV based on the advice I was given made all the difference.
‘One of my first jobs in Maritime Services is to organise and set-up a training brochure for quality training.
‘This is exactly the sort of opportunity I was looking for to really put into practice everything I have learnt, and to contribute to the wider business assurance team objectives.
‘Without the help of the coach helping me revamp my CV, I’m not quite sure how successful I would have been.’