THE SSI Task Force has published its Legacy Report and announced the expansion of the business start-up scheme to further support entrepreneurship and business growth across the Tees Valley.
The Legacy Report summarises progress across the range of assistance delivered, how the Government funding made available to the Task Force has been invested to date, and priorities for continued investment.
Amanda Skelton, chair of the SSI Task Force and chief executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “In the two years since the devastating closure of SSI the work of the Task Force has continued to help people move back into work, train for new careers and start new businesses.
“We are standing on the brink of a new era for the Tees Valley economy as we work toward the delivery of 20,000 new jobs through the South Tees Development Corporation Masterplan.
“Our focus is now on creating a long-term sustainable economy with better, well paid jobs and prospects for everyone. We want to build on the success of the business start-up scheme, which has already seen over 315 people take the brave step of starting a new venture, by widening this opportunity to others across the Tees Valley encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit across the whole area.”
One former steelworker who says his life has been “transformed” thanks to help from the SSI Task Force is Ray Robinson. “It was a horrible, horrible time when they closed,” said Ray, who worked at the Redcar coke ovens “I had a one-year-old little girl and I didn’t know what to do. I found work dealing with asbestos to get through the first Christmas but I knew I had to find something else.”
Mr Robinson applied for SSI Task Force funding for courses to service and repair wind turbines. He now has qualifications in paint inspection, blade inspection and repair and turbine servicing. Those qualifications have led to him finding work in the USA, Lapland and Finland. He said: “I can’t thank everyone who has helped me enough. I got a chance to aim high and I just thought it was worth taking that gamble. The Task Force funding was a real godsend and it’s transformed my life. I just couldn’t have done it without them. I’m so grateful.”
Priorities for remaining Task Force fund include expanding the business start-up support beyond former SSI workers and continuing the Capital Grant Scheme for existing Tees Valley businesses to encourage entrepreneurship, create quality permanent jobs and build a stronger private sector business base.