A pioneering social enterprise company that’s created nearly 30 jobs since it went into business less than a year ago has been hailed as a beacon for the rest of Wales.
Housing association Cartrefi Conwy joined forces with the Crest Co-operative recycling organisation to launch the new venture, Creating Enterprise, which became the first of its kind in Wales when it began operating last April.
The organisation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the housing association, takes on a range of maintenance work at almost 4,000 of Cartrefi Conwy’s properties across the county of Conwy, from exterior painting and gas services to fixing dripping taps and broken garden gates.
It also runs a ground-breaking employment academy which has already seen four jobless tenants being given a 12-month contract to gain work experience.
Creating Enterprise had its fanfare official launch at Cartrefi Conwy’s Abergele headquarters when chief executive Andrew Bowden revealed that the new venture had so far created a total of 27 job opportunities.
Wales’s Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths, who was a special guest at the event, gave her congratulations and said this achievement was “something to be celebrated.”
Creating Enterprise is overseen by a three-member board, including two from the housing association and one from Crest Co-operative.
Administered from Cartrefi Conwy’s base, the company has its operational nerve centre at Crest Co-operative in Llandudno Junction.
While Cartrefi Conwy calls on qualified trade professionals for the larger maintenance jobs at its properties, Creating Enterprise’s own handyman tackle work such as gardening or putting up cupboards. It also now provides gas services for tenants.
A unique feature of the company is its employment academy which is only available to Cartrefi Conwy tenants without jobs.
During their 12-month contract period the unemployed benefit from work experience, training and qualifications in some cases.
They are mentored throughout and in the ninth month of their contract they are offered full support to find a permanent job, which might be with a local employer or Cartrefi Conwy itself.
Ian Goss, 38, is one of the company’s success stories.
He was left without a job when his own business supplying uniforms and work wear was hit by the recession.
In 2011 he joined Crest Co-operative on a back-to-work scheme and benefitted from a 16-week training course at the end of which he was offered a full-time position with Crest.
He rose through the ranks from a kerbside collection driver to a supervisory role and was amongst the first to join Creating Enterprise last April.
He’s now the company’s operations supervisor in charge of 14 staff.
He said: “It’s been a fantastic stepping stone for me to get back into work and through the training programme I’ve also gained a number of qualifications, which I now plan to add to.
“It’s been great to be at the official launch of Creating Enterprise and to celebrate all it has achieved within just one year.”
The launch event was attended by around 50 guests from Cartrefi Conwy, Crest Co-operative, Creating Enterprise other housing associations, social enterprises, local authorities, funders and the wider business community.
Welsh Government Minister Lesley Griffiths AM said: “I am delighted to visit this project which is supporting so many of the Welsh Government’s key priorities by addressing long-term unemployment and helping the most vulnerable people in our society. The fact so many people have been helped into employment by Creating Enterprise in such a short space of time is something to be celebrated.
“As Minister with responsibility for Housing, I have been really impressed by the good work of everything housing associations and social landlords do – they go so far beyond simply providing a roof over someone’s head.This project is yet another excellent example of just this.”
Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden said: “Creating Enterprise has achieved a lot in a short time since it went into operation last April.
“It has created 27 new job opportunities for people ranging from gas fitters to painters.
“It grew out of the success Cartrefi Conwy had with the Welsh Housing Quality Standard programme. This concluded in 2012 during which time we created over 600 work placements and we didn’t want to lose that.
“We were looking for a vehicle to carry it on and we found it in Creating Enterprise.”
He added: “Our aim has been to go beyond community involvement and give people the opportunity to work.
“We also wanted to buy into training opportunities for our tenants, give better value for money and reduce costs.
“We aim to offer more than just community involvement. We want our tenants to actually work and gain work experience with us.”
Creating Enterprise is run by Sharon Jones who said: “It’s been an amazing time since we set up Creating Enterprise and I can’t believe it’s grown so quickly and what a huge difference it has made to people’s lives.
“We also give added value through our unique training academy which runs alongside the organisation and has jobs ring-fenced for Cartrefi Conwy tenants.”
She gave details of the work undertaken by Creating Enterprise in its first year of operation, including 71 properties painted, 650 jobs completed by the handyman service with a 95 per cent satisfaction rate and 531 maintenance visits.
Jim Illidge, who chairs the Creating Enterprise board, said: “The venture has had a very positive journey with lots of good work completed and work opportunities provided by the employment academy.
“For Cartrefi Conwy to have done this is really fantastic. It’s all about confidence, getting people back into work and learning new skills.
“I’m very optimistic for the future of Creating Enterprise.”
Huw Evans, vice chair of the Cartrefi Conwy board, said: “The academy is right at the core of Creating Enterprise and through it we are providing opportunities for people who wouldn’t normally be able to access traditional training.”
Rounding off the launch event was the presentation of training certificates to three Creating Enterprise staff, Mark Burroughs from Llandudno, Darren Hunter from Conwy and Ian Goss from Llanrhos.