“1,000 new jobs to be created in the Hull area” was the byline heading on the press release issued by Siemens yesterday when they confirmed their intention to build two major offshore wind manufacturing sites at Hull and Paull.
I spoke to a few people yesterday about the news from Siemens for an article in this week’s Holderness Gazette – a few of whom are featured here – but the question on everybody’s lips this week is:
Will local people really benefit from this multi-million pound investment?
There is a belief that if you concentrate investment and wealth in one place, then it will trickle down and outwards and everybody will benefit. But in actual fact those who benefit are the ones who position themselves in the best place to grab any benefits on offer!
It is undoubtedly the same with jobs on offer. If local job-seekers are adequately trained, or have transferable skills to offer, then hopefully they stand a fair chance of competing against others to land any jobs on offer. But it is on this issue of ‘competing against others’ that the campaign for ‘local jobs, for local people’ comes crashing down.
Example: A redundant local caravan worker with transferable skills competes for a wind farm manufacturing job against someone already doing that job (or something very similar) in another part of the country or the world. The interview process will measure the skills, experience and knowledge of a candidate (Person Specification) which would naturally give the person already doing the job an advantage. The redundant worker can only increase their competitiveness by having completed (or taking part in) some relevant job-related training – and whilst we have heard some re-assuring noises on this issue from our national politicians and business leaders, we have yet to hear any firm plans about such opportunities being made available locally.
Transpose a ‘local business’ for the ‘unemployed’ worker above, and you have the same process – those firms geared up, ‘in the loop’ and prepared to benefit from the supply-chain just might do so. Whilst for others opportunities will not even be recognised – let alone realised.
The possible reality, is that the new skilled jobs will be taken by those already doing similar work from elsewhere – or by local workers moving on from a current job into the new, growth renewables industry. You have a re-circulation of people already in employment to new jobs, rather than unemployed people taking those jobs. The proof of the pudding will not be apparent until 2016 – 2020 when we will be able to physically hear the pre-dominance of East Yorkshire accents in the Siemens canteen on coffee breaks – or indeed the predominance of Geordie, Scottish, Scouse, German, Swedish, and Danish ones!
Where does that leave local unemployed or under-employed people? Perhaps the Eco Park on Hedon Aerodrome with a promise of 750 new jobs provides a solution?
But as Councillor John Dennis suggested on the Hedon Blog recently:
“Bearing in mind the type of activity to be carried out on that land – horticulture and fish farming, just how many local people will take those jobs? We all know that the majority of horticultural jobs out in Holderness are carried out by immigrant workers, not local people.”
The fear of migrants and the effects of migration on local infrastructure and services seems to be a very real issue in the local population – perhaps unjustifiably so, whipped up as it is by politicians and the media. But unless the campaign to get local workers into local opportunities is a tangible campaign with real courses, training opportunities, job-guarantees and real jobs at the end – then the issue of migration into Hull and Holderness is set to become high on the political agenda.
Whilst the wealth created from the massive £310m investment in wind turbine manufacturing is not guaranteed to regenerate the parts of Hull and Holderness that need it; it could prompt an outreach programme to ensure that local people have the best-possible opportunities to benefit!
Ray Duffill, Editor, Hedon Blog.