Hope yet for Henderson’s apprentices hit by closure

A former John M. henderson employee receives advice at the PACE event on Wednesday.
A former John M. henderson employee receives advice at the PACE event on Wednesday.

Tragedy hit Arbroath on Friday night when the Herald broke the story on its website that John M Henderson had gone into administration.

A total of 89 workers were laid off by the Kirkton-based engineering manufacturer with immediate effect with six kept on to fulfil certain orders and assist administrators KPMG.

There has been a commendable rallying around the stricken workers with politicians, training bodies and other engineering firms wading in to help.

A glimmer of hope in this sad tale has been the swift and decisive action carried out by Angus Training Group in helping ‘re-home’ the Henderson apprentices.

There were 16 apprentices at John M. Henderson when it collapsed, 13 of whom were in training with ATG, and are split into two camps, five first year apprentices with around 12 weeks training and eight apprentices who are ‘in-company’ with varying levels of experience, some just months shy of qualifying.

ATG director Alan Swankie pulled out all the stops after the apprentices came to see him on Friday following the announcement and he is hopeful for their future.

Speaking on Wednesday Mr Swankie told the Herald: “Out of the eight, already three have got confirmations of jobs and two are interviewing just now and I’m waiting to hear back about another. We hopefully could have five back in work by the end of the day.

“I’m very hopeful that by the end of the week we’ll have six of the eight back in employment.

“I’m very confident that come a week, or 10 days, all the eight will have new jobs.”

Mr Swankie added: “Our member companies have been very supportive in this, taking on the shortfall, and it has even brought a new company in who may consider going down the tried and tested route of apprenticeships.

“It’s all moving very quickly.”

As soon as the news had reached ATG the Catherine Street-based engineering training firm made a commitment to support all their young charges, especially the first years who might struggle to find another sponsor company.

Mr Swankie said: “Angus Training Group has made a commitment to them to continue their training for the first year off the job, we’ll pick up the costs for that. What we are currently looking to do is see if there is some way for apprentices to claim some kind of funding in the form of a Job Seekers Allowance to give them something to live on. We’ve had discussions with people on that and it’s pending further information.

“As a company we won’t see anyone put out on the streets, they will at least get their first year under their belts which will make them more employable.”

Meanwhile, D&A College is looking at how they can assist the three first year apprentices placed with them, to finish their education.

Angus South MSP Graeme Dey revealed he has been approached by Inverbervie based Northeast Technology Solutions Ltd indicating they are recruiting experienced CNC machinists and are keen to talk to former Henderson’s employees.

Mr Dey said: “It’s been heartwarming to see people rallying round in response to the collapse of John M. Henderson and looking to help the affected staff find other work.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the Angus Training Group in particular. They really have pulled out all the stops to assist the apprentices who have gone through or are still in their care.

“And I know that not only are the college looking to assist the apprentices they are also talking to some of the senior staff who’ve lost their jobs about perhaps taking on teaching roles there.”

John M. Henderson started in 1924 supplying granite quarries in Aberdeen and as the engineering firm developed eventually moved manufacturing to Arbroath in 1985 and later all operations to the town in 1991.

Blair Nimmo, joint administrator and head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland, said: “We will do everything we can to seek a buyer who may be able to protect the business and which would maximise recoveries for creditors whilst also helping to maximise opportunities for the workforce.”

On the other side of Arbroath however, logistical service company Journeycall announced it had filled 76 of the 100 initial jobs it was bringing to the town, with the rest expected by December.

The company’s current employees are expected to be in situ at their new headquarters at James Chalmers Road by early November when the new starts will join them.

Theresa Wishart, Journeycall’s operations director said: “This is an exciting time for Journeycall.

“Relocating to larger premises with almost 50 per cent more employees will enable Journeycall to continue with our long term plans by further increasing our range of specialist services to existing clients while also targeting new business.”

As well as 100 new jobs, it is estimated that Journeycall’s relocation to Arbroath will inject around £30 million into the local economy over the next 10 years.