Honda workers access thousands of training courses ahead of plant’s closure

By Jamie Hill - 19 February 2021

Business

Almost all workers who have left Honda of the UK Manufacturing (Honda) in the initial phases of its redundancy programme have successfully moved on to the next steps of their careers.

A follow-up survey has indicated that around 200 employees, who were part of the company’s first two waves of redundancy, are now in alternative employment, education or training. Some of those who were supported by the car manufacturer’s career transition service also used the advice and support on offer to take career breaks or begin their retirement.

The encouraging update was presented at the latest meeting of the Honda and Supply Chain Coordinating Steering Group, led by Swindon Borough Council, which is overseeing additional support for Honda workers and those working in the wider supply chain.

The steering group heard that a further 2,600 staff will leave the South Marston factory at the end of July with a further 200 staff staying on past the 31 July closure date as the plant is decommissioned.

Honda has organised a number of networking events bringing its highly-skilled workforce together with local companies and recruitment agencies. So far, almost 5,000 employee registrations have been made for such events with recruiters who are interested in Honda associates.

The Japanese carmaker has also provided a number of training opportunities for its staff and 2,753 online training courses have been completed, which have been a mixture of LinkedIn Learning and in-house opportunities.

In addition to training courses and CV-writing workshops, Honda is producing its own accreditation scheme, which provides associates with a testimonial from their manager on their level of skills so they can use it as evidence for new employers.

Local businesses Catalent and Recycling Technologies have stepped in to help Honda apprentices complete their courses and stay on in new jobs in growing sectors of the economy.

Meanwhile, the Honda and Supply Chain Coordinating Steering Group has continued to work closely with Honda to supplement the support on offer, as well as offering specific help for workers in the wider supply chain.

This has included advice and support via virtual redundancy events, in partnership with Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), and a number of other information and wellbeing events designed to prepare workers for life after the factory closes.

The Council has enlisted the help of the National Career Service, in order to provide support to employees at supply chain companies, while a functional skills training programme has also been organised.

In addition, the Department for Work and Pensions is currently planning job seeking and benefits sessions from May to July and Honda staff and those within the supply chain, who wish to start their own businesses, have also been offered tailored business start-up support through the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), thanks to funding from the Council and SWLEP.

The steering group also heard that work is progressing on two separate studies funded by SWLEP, which aim to bring forward future uses of the Honda-owned site. A £170,000 transport study is being prepared, in collaboration with Highways England, to identify how the local highway network can be enhanced to enable the Honda site to be more intensely developed so it can support up to 8,000 jobs.

A further £80,000 in funding will be made available for a further study into the potential energy requirement for the site as well as options for renewable energy through connection to the Grid and the possibility of on-site energy generation.

Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council and Co-Chair of the National Honda Task Force, said: “We have been working with Honda and the supply chain companies since the factory closure was announced two years ago to ensure staff make a successful transition into the next phase of their careers.

“I was therefore really pleased to hear that such a high proportion of employees who have already used Honda’s career transitions service are now where they want to be after leaving the company. This is hugely encouraging, but not surprising, as we know the firm’s workforce is highly skilled.

“Now we are less than six months away from the plant’s closure, the remaining Honda staff and those in the supply chain, will be aiming to follow in their former colleagues’ footsteps and we will keep working with our partners to ensure they are as ready as they can be for the next chapters in their careers.

“What I can promise them is that as a Council we are doing all we can to ensure our economy is as strong as it can be as we move out of the current pandemic. Hundreds of millions of pounds is currently being invested in infrastructure and regeneration projects across the Borough, which will ensure we create the right environment for new businesses to fill the void left by Honda in the years to come.”

Paul Moorby Co-Chair of the National Honda Task Force and Chair of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “SWLEP is committed to supporting associates leaving Honda’s employment in July. We offer practical help and in some cases financial support to assist Honda associates start up their own businesses.

“This is an important addition to the work by Honda and all the taskforce partners, giving Honda associates a good range of options.

“We are also funding a £250,000 study to understand how local roads, rail and green energy supply will support a range of future uses of the site, potentially supporting up to 8,000 jobs.

“Honda is keen that it leaves a legacy. Continued high value advanced manufacturing would be an excellent use of the site and fantastic for Swindon and Wiltshire.”

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