The past few months has seen a dramatic change at one of the social enterprises operated by the Colebridge Trust (the organisation behind SUSTAiN).
Waterloo Woodwork, which many of you will know has been providing work experience and training to adults with a learning disability for 25 years. It was set up by the NHS Care Trust and Adult Social Services in 1987. Colebridge Trust took over the operation shortly after it was set up in 2002 (yes, Colebridge is 10 years old).
Whilst we are proud of what we have achieved in preparing people with a learning disability for employment, we have long been frustrated that jobs are few and far between and it has been difficult to move clients on to the jobs they deserve.
Supported employment, we believe is the only way of achieving a significant change in the employment rates of learning disabled adults. Changes in funding and public sector cuts make creating a sustainable enterprise that can offer this more necessary and challenging.
We finally achieved the first part of our goal in October 2012.
We were assisted in that by the Social Value Act, Goldman Sachs, Aston Business School and a very socially minded business based in Rugby – Automotive Insulations (AI).
AI were growing rapidly and experiencing capacity constraints. Charles Rapson, our Enterprise Manager enrolled on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Growth Programme at Aston Business School. There he met Jim Griffin, MD and one thing led to another.
Jim was very impressed by everything the Colebridge Trust did. He saw the opportunity to solve his capacity issues by sub contracting work to Colebridge and he realised that this provided a social value aspect that would help him win more contracts. More than that, Jim was moved by the fact that doing so would create jobs for people who find it hardest to get paid work.
In October, work started at the industrial unit in Chelmsley Wood and 10 new jobs were created. The majority going to people with learning disabilities with a few going to clients at another of our projects – Skills for Jobs – which helps long term unemployed people in north Solihull get back into work.
So far everything is going really well. People who have never had a job in their life are now earning a wage and they love the work. AI are delighted with the service we are providing and other organisations are sitting up and taking notice.
2013 looks like it could be even better for what is now called Colebridge Enterprises (Assembly Operations)
Colebridge Enterprises is a ‘not for personal profit’ Social Enterprise. The proceeds from our enterprises supports the other work the Colebridge Trust does – including SUSTAiN.
To find out more about our enterprise activity, visit www.colent.org
Picture: Jim Griffin of AI meets workers and support staff at Colebridge Enterprises