In Autumn 2013, following the Government’s decision to reduce MoD budget expenditure, BAE Systems made the proposal to reduce its shipbuilding capacity in the UK from three to two shipyards and on 6th November 2013, subject to consultation, that this would mean the closure of its shipbuilding operation in Portsmouth. Following the completion of consultation, this resulted in the loss of shipbuilding operations and cross functional staff working within the Naval Ships team located in the Naval Base at Portsmouth.
This put 940 employees at risk of redundancy as well as 278 contractors. This workforce was made up of 450 blue collar staff that carried out key roles in building the new Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Aircraft Carrier for the Royal Navy as well as circa 400 support and administrative staff.
The city and Local Enterprise Partnership responded by setting up a multi-agency Task Force in late November 2013, chaired by the local authority, Portsmouth City Council. The Task Force comprised a range of partners who added their support and expertise to the mitigation actions planned by the company, thereby reducing the potential shock such a large number of job losses could have on the local economy. The partners included, DWP Jobcentre Plus, local FE Colleges and other training providers, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, Recruitment Agencies, the University of Portsmouth, and staff from within the local authority.
The activities BAE Systems and partners undertook to mitigate the impact on BAE staff directly impacted by the closure of shipbuilding in Portsmouth Dockyard and reduce the economic impact on staff and the local economy had three key strands:
a) Provision of outplacement support services to all staff
b) Training and employment support for retraining staff that are redeployed into Maritime Services
c) Retraining support to enable affected staff to take up external opportunities
The Change programme was delivered through resources from 3 main sources. The company itself is providing up to £2.9 million pounds, as well as a £1.6 million contribution through the Solent LEP’s Solent Futures programme. This support was complemented by provision through the Skills Support for Redundancy programme that is delivered by local FE colleges and training providers and funded through the European Social Fund.
The Solent LEP also provided a project manager to work with the company and partners to co-ordinate the activities and training delivery.
The programme, which lasted just over 1 year, provided the following outcomes for affected staff:
The company safeguarded 600 jobs, with 400 being transferred to other BAE Systems business units and 200 finding new jobs with external employers.