Two social housing pioneers have been honoured for their work in providing training and helping hundreds of tenants find jobs.

Andrew Bowden, the group chief executive of housing association Cartrefi Conwy, and Katie Clubb, the managing director, were guests of honour at a special reception for Local Skills Champions at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s official residence.

They were invited by Aberconwy MP Robin Millar who was impressed by Cartrefi’s record of innovation.

The reception was hosted by Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan MP who said she was passionate about the value of providing apprenticeships and giving people opportunities.

Earlier this year it was revealed that 30 per cent of the staff employed by Cartrefi and subsidiary Creating Enterprise are tenants – making up more than 15 per cent of the total workforce.

It’s believed the percentage of tenants they employ is “incredibly rare” and much higher than any other housing association in the UK.

Roles range from painters and plumbers to community workers, admin and finance jobs.

The idea of setting up Creating Enterprise as a community interest company in 2015 came from Andrew Bowden who saw the potential of adopting a more commercial approach so that any profits can be reinvested for the benefit of tenants.

It was named as the fastest growing firm in Wales at the 2020 Wales Fast Growth 50 awards, expanding by 664% between 2017 and 2019.

As well as maintaining Cartrefi’s 4,000 properties, it also builds low carbon wood-framed modular homes at a factory in Rhyl.

Robin Millar MP said: “I was delighted to be able to invite Katie Clubb and Andrew Bowden to the reception for Skills Champions at 10 Downing Street and introduce them to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan.

“The ground-breaking work being done by Cartrefi Conwy and its sister organisation, Creating Enterprise, to provide training for tenants and help them find employment is truly inspirational.

“The fact that tenants make up 15 per cent of the workforce is absolutely remarkable and a business model that could and should be emulated by other social housing providers.

“Meanwhile, the Creating Futures Employment Academy and the factory making  frames and other wooden products to build low carbon modular homes have created a virtuous circle that recycles commercial profit for the benefit of tenants as well as creating work and training opportunities.

“The aim of events like the one at Downing Street  is to be able to recognise excellence and share best practice with like-minded people and I am glad that I have been able to play a part in spreading the message about the brilliant work being done by Cartrefi and Creating Enterprise.”

According to Cartrefi MD Katie Clubb, she was grateful to Mr Millar for organising the invitation to 10 Downing Street.

She said: “It was great to get this recognition and a fabulous opportunity to tell our story and share the impact Cartrefi Conwy has had in North Wales.

“We talked about establishing Creating Enterprise and how it reinvests commercial profits into the Employment Academy which has now successfully supported nearly 700 people into jobs in the region.

“We were also proud to share that 15% of the Cartrefi Conwy workforce are our tenants who have been supported into roles through Creating Futures.

“It was an honour to represent Cartrefi Conwy and be included amongst other champions nominated for their contribution.

“We want to thank Adrian Johnson, Sharon Jones and Sioned Williams and their teams who work tirelessly to achieve these incredible results and of course to everyone successfully completing programmes though Creating Futures.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Group Chief Executive Andrew Bowden who added: “We want to do more than look after our tenants and provide great accommodation which is safe and secure. We want to be properly embedded in the community and provide added value.

“This record of employing 30 of our own tenants is something that makes us stand out amongst our peers of actually being a great anchor organisation, a community based organisation that is making a real difference.

“This is about  building the confidence of our tenants who are often among those furthest from the job market, giving them the  opportunity to get a great job and to work with a great organisation.

“Essentially, this is about changing people’s lives for the better and that makes me incredibly proud.”