‘If people aren’t fussy and want a job, I feel very confident there will be good employers out there with jobs to offer’ - JobCentre Plus boss’s words of comfort to doomed Heinz factory staff in north Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
It was not the start to the festive season that anyone in North Walsham wanted.
In the week before Christmas, when the country was alive with goodwill and excitement, 200 workers at Heinz heard that their Westwick factory was to close.
Many of those who will lose their jobs, when Heinz shuts in April, live in or around the town.
And many must be wondering if they have any hope of another job in their home town, or its hinterland.
Happily, the early signs are looking good, according to Julia Nix, district manager for East Anglia JobCentre Plus.
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Latest figures, produced in November, showed that there had been a reduction of more than 40pc in the number of people unemployed in north Norfolk compared to November 2013 – from 1,145 to 675.
'We can genuinely say we are back to pre-2008 levels, before the economic crisis. The labour market in North Walsham is buoyant and people are finding work again,' said Mrs Nix.
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A number of North Walsham firms, including a window manufacturer, were recruiting, she said.
Confectionery firm Kinnerton and vegetarian food manufacturer Linda McCartney, both based in Fakenham, had contacted Heinz offering some jobs to its staff, according to Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council.
And he hoped up to 50 jobs would be created when a Wetherspoon's pub opened in North Walsham's New Road. The district council, which owns the New Road building the pub chain wants to buy, has agreed a sale price.
'Hopefully a national chain coming in will act as an anchor and pull in more businesses,' said Mr FitzPatrick.
'These people are pretty hard-nosed – they don't come for reasons of charity. It shows they see the economic indicators as positive.'
Meanwhile, the district and county councils were offering advice and support to staff affected, including the district's Learning for Everyone initiative which helped with job skills such as writing CVs and interviews.
Experience gained when the Cromer Crab Company factory shut in 2012 showed that many people found jobs before closure, according to Mrs Nix.
Although more than 200 people had been employed at Cromer Crab when the closure threat was first announced, JobCentre Plus had only needed to help 45 people find work when the factory gates were locked for the last time.
She predicted that some Heinz workers would use their redundancy money to set themselves up in businesses, such as window cleaning.
Heinz's closure date was also in the workers' favour, according to Mrs Nix.
She explained: 'There's never a nice time to be made redundant but in April there are all sorts of things beginning in tourism and agricultural processing.
'If people aren't fussy and want a job, I feel very confident there will be good employers out there with jobs to offer.'
Will the closure of the factory affect you? Contact Alex Hurrell on 01263 513316 or email firstname.lastname@example.org