A pioneering social enterprise company which helped an unemployed father escape the dole queue after being out of work almost two years is up for a major award.
Owain Jones, 32, from Rhos on Sea, faced a fruitless round of job hunting when he tried to find fresh employment after taking time off to look after his newborn son.
But things took a turn for the better when he landed a 12-month paid contract with the Employment Academy run by Creating Enterprise.
The academy created almost 40 jobs in its first 18 months and has now created a new property maintenance team which undertakes a wide variety of work at Cartrefi Conwy properties and also fits new bathrooms and kitchens.
Owain hopes his own positive experience with the academy will provide the perfect springboard into the permanent job he is looking for.
And it is success stories like his which have seen Creating Enterprise shortlisted in the One to Watch category of the 2016 Social Business Wales Awards.
Recognised as the premier accolades for social businesses in Wales, the awards are a high-profile celebration of imaginative, entrepreneurial, growth-focused enterprises that are passionate about social change.
Success in its category at the glittering presentation ceremony on the eve of the Social Business Wales conference at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea would give Creating Enterprise an automatic passport into the UK-wide Social Enterprise Awards in London’s Covent Garden in November.
Creating Enterprise was the first of its kind in Wales when it was created in April 2015 and has been hailed as a beacon for the rest of the country.
A wholly owned subsidiary of the housing association, it 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, and has also worked for other organisations.
The Employment Academy, which offers 12-month paid contracts providing training, support and mentoring for unemployed Cartrefi Conwy tenants, has so far worked with a total of eight people and seen one of them secure permanent work.
Owain signed up after almost two years away from employment.
He said: “I had been working for a time with Crest Co-operative doing property clearances but I left to become a stay-at-home dad helping my partner Kate look after our new baby son, Fletcher.
“As he got a little older I decided it was time to go back to work but really struggled to find anything. I applied for quite a number of jobs but didn’t even get a reply when I sent in my CV.
“I then heard about the new employment academy set up by Creating Enterprise, applied for one of its contracts and was lucky enough to be taken on.
“Since I started I’ve worked in a number of areas such as garden maintenance, gutter clearances and putting up to-let boards at vacant properties.
“At the moment I’m working with the property clearance team, which is actually what I used to do.
“I’ve also successfully done a number of courses including manual handling and first aid at work.”
He added: “Being out of work was very frustrating and it was hard not earning. But the contract has given me a big boost and a new purpose. It’s also built up my confidence.
“I’ve had lots of valuable experience so far, which will hopefully put me in good stead for finding permanent work again. I’d recommend it to anyone.
“I’m delighted to hear that because of schemes like the employment academy Creating Enterprise has been shortlisted for the award and I wish them all the best at the presentation night.”
Ffion Lloyd, Employment Academy Mentor, said: “The academy is a unique feature of Creating Enterprise and 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, such as receiving help with CV writing, interviews and job application skills.
“The shortlisting for the award is brilliant news and a tribute to the ongoing success of the whole organisation.”
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 largermaintenance 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.
The company is run by Business and Partnership Director Sharon Jones who said: “One of our latest developments is the creation of a property maintenance team which undertakes a wide variety of work at Cartrefi Cowny properties and also fits new bathrooms and kitchens.
“There are two tradesmen on the team and one Cartrefi Conwy tenant who was previously unemployed is now training with them.
“We’ve also done work for other companies such as painting 27 properties for a new build scheme in Llanfairfechan and a similar painting job for Colwyn Borough Council.
“We just seem to go from strength to strength and our shortlisting for the award is absolutely fantastic, particularly as it’s in the One to Watch category which is for organisations who have potential for growth.
“I think we have a good future ahead of us as we’ve grown consistently since we started, are taking on new work and making fresh employment opportunities.
“Since we started we’ve created 37 jobs for people ranging from gas fitters to painters.
“I’ll definitely be keeping my fingers crossed when I go down to the presentation ceremony in Swansea.”