I felt really proud getting an apprenticeship at the Works: 700 hundred applied for 18 jobs! As I said before I was a taken on as apprentice Plater. I felt part of the chosen few and then very disappointed at the closure of the Works and that I had to leave Consett to complete my apprenticeship.
I was sent to the Rolling Mill at Jarrow which was fine (and I was extremely happy to finish my apprenticeship) but it didn’t have the variety of work that I would have got if I stayed at Consett as it was an integrated Steel Works. We had a mini-bus that took us every day to Jarrow. Some apprentices left to other industries at that point.
When the Works closed, wage levels in the Consett area drastically dropped as the new employment didn’t pay as well as the Steel Works.
Consett is a lovely place to live but I think we have lost (in part) that sense of community which was created, to some extent, by so many people working together: brothers, uncles, and fathers. They made sure you behaved yourself and gave you help when you needed it.
Of the 18 from our intake(the last) that finished their apprenticeships I am one of three or four that are still in the steel industry alongside a few more from older age groups who still make steel . I am passionate about the industry and the products we create. I’m part of a tradition, my grandfather worked at Consett and the steel he helped to produce has travelled the world, from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Blackpool Tower!
Gerard Smith Interview