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The Skill Mill

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 2 years ago

Founded in 2013 by Davie Parks, The Skill Mill is a Not-for-Profit Social Enterprise. It supports young ex-offenders aged 16-18 on a 6-month paid employment programme within environmental maintenance and construction.

On the programme, young people work in groups of four. They work closely with a supervisor to provide mentoring support, earn a weekly wage and gain an accredited qualification in employability skills. Working outdoors in nature is especially engaging for young people as it improves emotional and physical wellbeing.

The initiative helps prepare young people with criminal justice experience, furthest away from the labour market, to enter long-term sustainable employment. Many progress within environmental maintenance, employed by local authorities or the Environmental Agency. Some candidates have also gone onto work within hair and beauty, retail and logistics.

The first pilot scheme was in Newcastle. To date, The Skill Mill have employed 158 young people. Just 15 of those have reoffended. This means their re-conviction rate is just 9.5%, compared with the national average of 43% (the re-conviction rate for the group Skill Mill typically employ is considerably higher).

This is an outstanding achievement for young people who have faced multiple disadvantages and have overcome many challenges to move forward with their lives.

These young people who have been drawn into criminality need a realistic opportunity to break the cycle. The Skill Mill achieves this by helping to change their identity from one of offender to an employee with legitimate income, self-respect and a desire to change their behaviour and contribute positively to society and the economy.

-Davie Parks, Founding Director, The Skill Mill.

Going forward, The Skill Mill has opened its doors to seven sites, following the launch of an innovative four-year outcomes contract through a social impact bond. The programme will support 224 young ex-offenders into employment.

Creating inclusive employment opportunities for the most disadvantaged young people is a priority for all Local Authorities, especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic as we progress to the recovery phase. The Skill Mill is providing young people with realistic prospects in the job market, developing skills and knowledge which will be vital to employers who are building a resilient local workforce.

-Kate Booth, Birmingham Councillor, Cabinet Member for Children's Wellbeing

To support their work through the pandemic, The Skill Mill developed a face mask project. They hired a group of women who had excellent sewing skills but who had previously been out of the job market. Virgin Management is amongst its supporters. If your business is interested in ordering some bespoke masks, please click here to find out more about how you can order.

Joining The Skill Mill has changed my life. I'm earning my own money, paying my way at home and made my family proud of me. That's not something I thought I'd be saying a year ago. I really feel that I'm making a difference by keeping the parks clean and tidy. Aye and I've not re-offended.

-Skill Mill Participant

The Skill Mill has recently been shortlisted in 'The Howard League for Penal Reform Community Awards' within the 'criminal justice champion' and 'organisation of the year' categories.

The Skill Mill has sites in Birmingham, Croydon, Durham, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Rochdale and Surrey. If you are an employer in the construction, logistics or horticulture industries looking for work-ready candidates, please do get in touch with the Skill Mill through our directory.