TOO GOOD TO LOSE; Retraining brings new hope to redundancy-threat staff.
DOZENS of staff are moving on to new opportunities after the call centre where they worked shut down.
In March the workers at the Wilton-based OC5 call centre learned that their sole client, British Gas Business (BGB), was taking the work back to its Leicester headquarters, with the loss of 155 jobs on Teesside.
However, call centre owner Sembcorp and the staff teamed up for a major project including job fairs, help with applications and CVs and a detailed analysis of workers' skills, to help them find a new future.
And the result is most of the OC5 staff have gone into alternative jobs, self-employment or training - some within Sembcorp itself.
These include Tony Sivills, 24, and Jeff Allinson, 43, both of Loftus, who are taking on new challenges as a Sembcorp firefighter and a stores employee respectively.
Tony, a five-year veteran of OC5, has swapped his call centre trainer position for the Sembcorp protection team position, which will involve chemical spill protection and ambulance technician work as well as firefighting.
Sembcorp manager Jo Potter, who ran OC5 and played a leading role in the initiative, says: "Tony won't blow his own trumpet, but he's exceptional at coaching and diversifying."
Crucially for a firefighter, he is also very fit, since he plays football with several local minor league teams.
Tony says he's looking forward to his new job: "I think it's going to push me outside my comfort zone!"
Jeff will be working in the huge Sembcorp stores operation, which contain everything from helmets, goggles and rivets to large engineering parts.
He says that, because of the size of the operation, it will be a "massive challenge". "But I just can't wait to get cracking."
Human resources manager Jill Sullivan says that when Sembcorp carried out the skills audit of call centre workers, they were amazed at the range of skills and qualifications. "We can't afford to lose them," she says, pointing out as one example that Jeff previously had other careers, including in horticulture and as a trained chef.
Of the 155 staff, 11 relocated to Leicester, many others found work in other local call centres and businesses, and at least 16 found jobs elsewhere at Sembcorp, or are on secondment or apprenticeships supported by the company.
Other agencies such as Tees Valley Regeneration, Jobcentre Plus and Business Link helped with the huge redeployment project.
FRESH STARTS: 10 of the nearly 150 employees who potentially faced redundancy at the Wilton site but who have now been retrained and won different roles within Sembcorp's Wilton site Picture by ANDREW GRAY; NEW ROLE: Tony Sivills, second left at the back, Jeff Allinson, centre back, and Jo Potter, fourth left Picture by ANDREW GRAY