FORMER bakers and printers joined experienced steelworkers as the first batch of new recruits began their careers with Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK (SSI) yesterday.

The 86 at yesterday's induction in Middlesbrough will start work at the former Teesside Cast Products plant in Redcar, which the Thai firm took over in a £291m deal in March, on Monday.

They are the first of around 1,000 new staff, from a wide range of backgrounds and ages, joining 700 workers who remained at the plant following its mothballing by Tata Steel, formerly Corus, in February last year.

The new starters had been sent their contracts last week but were told to bring them yesterday and only sign them after a day in which they were given a no-holds-barred insight to what working at the steel plant would mean.

At a morning session held at the Riverside Stadium it was made clear that if the plant performed in the same way as prior to its mothballing it would not survive.

SSI UK chief executive Phil Dryden said: "It wasn't just signing contracts we believe that the values of the organisation need to be shared. It is no good us all having different values.

"I don't think we are asking people to sign up to anything onerous, all this stuff is the way we live our lives, but at the same time the signing up is easy, the living it is the difficult bit for all of us.

"I wanted them to come in with their eyes wide open as to what they are letting themselves in for."

Everyone signed up and a similar reaction is expected from the 900 or so staff still to go through a similar induction process before steelmaking restarts on December 8.

Of yesterday's new employees 27 had previous experience working at steelworks but all spoke of their determination to live up to the challenge they are being set.

Ian Telford, 33, from Redcar, who was coming back to an industry he had last worked in some years ago, said: "They know exactly what needs to be done. It is not a case of just restarting the plant, history has proven it doesn't work like that, it has been explained today that a whole different philosophy has to be used.

"I was surprised by the presentation, it wasn't how I thought it was going to be, but it was exactly what was needed, a wake up call.

"I am hoping this could potentially be a job for life, but that is down to us, we have to make our own future."

Andrew Rogers, 49, from Redcar had worked at Teesside Cast Products prior to its mothballing and in the steel industry since 1994.

He said: "I wanted to be part of it, it is a once in a lifetime chance.

"The whole area revolves around the steelworks. I was part of the steel marches because I have been passionate about making steel again.

"We can't go back to what we did before otherwise it will not survive. "It is a new way of working and people who may have been blinkered before have to take those blinkers off and look at the bigger picture."

Mark Hetherington, 33, from Middlesbrough, has joined SSI after 16 years as a printer.

He said: "It is a solid, secure job and a chance to be part of the steel industry.

"Being from Middlesbrough you have that connection to the industry, in any pub that is what people are talking about, it starting again.

"It is important to get it right, it is going to take everyones commitment."

Ben Elliott, 28 from Middlesbrough, who had previously worked constructing new power stations, said: "I jumped at the chance. It is something everyone in this area wants to do.

"The past has happened, we remember it, but now we start again from scratch to build it to be a successful plant and get the area back on top."

SSI UK's human resources director Joanne Davies, who has led the recruitment process, said: "It is a lot of hard work coming to fruition but the hard work starts now because these guys have to get the plant back up and running."