Global companies head into Alcan

Alcan workers meet companies at a jobs fair in the canteen Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

As good as they are, not even Alcan's pie and chips could have pulled in as many orange and blue overalls into the bustling canteen.

By lunchtime, Rio Tinto was confident that "hundreds" would come to the jobs fair. You could see why. Nissan, Nestle and Huntsmen were just a few of the companies rolling out corporate boards and offering their support. Even the chocolates were affirming: "Keep Calm and Get a Job", the reassuring red mints advised.

John Priest, a worker, explained why it was important: "Rather than feeling like you're left along to support your family and the rest of it, there are a lot of people here offering a lot of jobs, so that's improved the mood."

The ambition for this jobs fair was admirable. Rio Tinto's John McCabe explained that they wanted "the biggest and best companies" for their workers, 515 of whom are losing their jobs due to the closure of Alcan's smelter. Most employees we spoke to seemed appreciative.

But it will be difficult. So far, Nissan has given jobs to six former Alcan workers. Last week, a group of Alcan workers told me they did not believe that many of their skills are transferable. In Wansbeck, more than 55 people are likely to go for every job.

Ian Lavery, the local MP, said he's worried that any jobs that will be saved, will be mostly used for management. Rio Tinto says it is trying to "solve the issue" and it is doing all it can with job fairs and negotiations to make sure that does not happen.

Even so, the jobs fair threw up its own irony for Wansbeck.

Worker Colin Richardson hit the nail on the head:

But "searching" in many cases means relocating: I heard one company offering posts in Birmingham. Of course the best-case scenario is that hundreds of workers get jobs in the North East. And even in that optimistic outcome, Wansbeck itself would be left having to court employers.