THE last workers of the famous Weis ice-cream factory in Toowoomba have received special retraining to prepare them for life after the site's closure at the end of the year.

The first round of lay-offs began in recent weeks at Weis, more than six months after parent company Unilever announced the factory would be shut down due to financial constraints.

More than 90 full-time positions will go once the plant was closed in December or January.

In positive news for employees, the company partnered with TAFE Queensland to help laid-off staff upskill, gain accreditation or change careers.

Factory director Keith Head said while staff were disappointed by the job losses, the vast majority would remain in the region with better access to other work.

The Weis manufacturing facility in Toowoomba as Unilever continue to wind down local production in the eventual move to New South Wales, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer
The Weis manufacturing facility in Toowoomba as Unilever continue to wind down local production in the eventual move to New South Wales, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer

"(The workforce) are very dedicated, extremely resilient and very patient, (and) they are innovative, they have high integrity and it's really a group that treat themselves as a small family," he said.

"There were around 93 when we announced in November, another 11 have left and 12 have been laid off (recently), so at this point, we'll have about 70 people there until December or January.

"I think you're going to see 80-90 per cent stay in this area.

"They get the qualifications, but we also did other training (around) interviewing skills, resume writing and discussions with local employers, which we will do a little closer to the closing date.

"We're tracking them to make sure they're landing on their feet."

TAFE South West corporate solutions and industry engagement director Michele Berkhout said the majority of workers chose to get retrained or accredited, thanks to the Queensland Government's Regional Skills Adjustment Strategy.

"The RSAS was created to help workers who were impacted by industry adjustments, and it's targeted at workers who are at risk," she said.

"78 workers said they would like the full range of support offered, (and) of those people, 20 per cent decided to change career paths.

"Weis have a very capable workforce, and the research we did demonstrated their resilience, ambitions and so on.

"You can then start recognising the skills - we had 23 people who were able to get their food processing qualifications, and we were also able to get some people qualifications for logistics.

"A lot said they wanted to stay in the industry."

Weis factory director Keith Head (left) with logistics team leader Charlie Thorpe stand outside the manufacturing facility in Toowoomba as Unilever continue to wind down local production in the eventual move to New South Wales, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer
Weis factory director Keith Head (left) with logistics team leader Charlie Thorpe stand outside the manufacturing facility in Toowoomba as Unilever continue to wind down local production in the eventual move to New South Wales, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Picture: Kevin Farmer


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