A Welsh social enterprise is ramping up its apprenticeship programme thanks to a growing order book of work that’s worth £68 million over the next five years.
Mother of two Holly Joinson, 28, is among the latest recruits to sign up for an apprenticeship thanks to Creating Enterprise – a subsidiary of housing association Cartrefi Conwy – who’ve helped more than 500 into work since it was set up in 2015.
Creating Enterprise have pioneered the construction of modular, energy efficient homes and have a factory in Rhyl where they make the timber frames, roof joists and fencing.
The construction of Passivhaus properties is central Cartrefi Conwy’s strategy of building a 1,000 new homes between now and 2030.
Creating Enterprise are also building new houses for other social housing providers and local authorities in North Wales.
In addition, they have taken on responsibility for maintaining and upgrading Cartrefi’s current portfolio of 4,000 houses and flats.
One of their main cogs is the Creating Futures Employment Academy that helps tenants and other people find work, training and volunteering opportunities.
The community interest company was named as the fastest growing firm in Wales at the 2020 Wales Fast Growth 50 awards, expanding by 664% between 2017 and 2019.
Assistant director of property Wayne Bannister says that, as well as improving and building new homes for tenants, they are transforming lives for the better with work and training opportunities.
Among the most recent examples, he said, was new apprentice electrician Holly Joinson, a Cartrefi Conwy tenant who lives in Colwyn Bay.
Holly gained work experience as a volunteer while studying in college and doing a part-time job – and raising her two children at the same time.
She said: “Until now I’ve done whatever has fitted in the kids and I worked as a social care support worker but I wanted a career rather than a minimum wage job.
“I’ve got a few electricians in the family and dad has always done everything a home like DIY and I’ve grown up with that so I suppose it’s in my DNA.
“I am a problem solver and I have always wanted to have a trade so that I am set up for life.
“I have just got a Level 2 qualification at Llandrillo College and I volunteered with Cartrefi working with an electrician getting the empty properties up to standard before the tenants moved in.
“This year my youngest son has started full time in school so everything has fallen into place because I’ve got a four-year apprenticeship with Cartrefi.
“Me and my Dad where crying on the day I got the apprenticeship which means a lot because I’ve now got a secure career, setting up my family for the future which is what I wanted. I’m pretty proud of myself.
“It means the world to me, it’s going to change everything. It’s literally life-changing. It’s my dream job.”
According to Wayne Bannister, they are going to need more people like Holly as the order book continues to grow.
He said: “We have so much work on that we have accelerated out apprenticeship programme and we have work experience opportunities for volunteers and people coming through the employment academy.
“We want to bring the new generation through so our experienced staff can pass on their knowledge and skills.
“Overall we have around 85 people working in our building maintenance unit that looks after all Cartrefi’s 4,000 or so properties and we’re also fitting bathrooms and kitchens for Clwyd Alyn housing association in 160 of their homes.
“We are fulfilling Cartrefi’s mission by creating energy efficient homes, providing job opportunities and training for our tenants. We’re essentially creating a virtuous circle – this is profit with a purpose.
“The goal is to get tenants into work and provide them with a trade, and it can be totally life-changing.
“Our order book is expanding and we already have £68 million worth of work in Creating Enterprise alone over the next five years.
“As well as building the modular housing, we will be doing the electrics and the plumbing. We’ll be doing the groundworks and the fencing.”
Sioned Williams, the community and social impact manager at Creating Enterprise, hailed Holly as an inspiration.
She said: “Over the years we have helped more than 500 people into work. One of the important things to us is that those jobs are sustainable so we keep in contact with them and 95 per cent of them remain in employment.
“The reality is that there are a lot of jobs out there at the moment and the trick is to help people find the right jobs for them.
“More recently we’ve opened our hub in Llandudno so we are more visible to the community and everybody we support becomes ambassadors for us.
“Holly is the perfect for ambassador for us. She has worked extremely hard – a single mum who’s been studying, working and volunteering at the same time, all to achieve that one goal. We’re all incredibly proud of her.
“She will now become a role model and a real inspiration for our next cohort of volunteers.
“An important element of what we do is to break down barriers and encourage women to work in areas that have traditionally been dominated by men
“We also have Rebecca Davies in the gas team so it’s now going to be much easier for us to approach construction companies when we are doing it ourselves and showing that it works..
“Holly and Rebecca are trailblazers and we can only offer and support women when we are offering those opportunities.”
For more information go to the website www.creatingenterprise.org.uk