A project that is offering support to the voluntary and community sector in the North East by using experts from business, has come to the aid of Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). SkillsBridge was able to provide a volunteer from the local office of commercial property consultant GVA, to offer specific and valuable support to Newcastle CAB for a vital property development project.
The headquarters of Newcastle CAB are in a grade one listed building on Nelson Street, and various restrictions make it challenging to improve the premises so that they are completely fit for purpose in the 21stCentury. The costs of developing a viable plan for the building using an external agency were prohibitive and CAB did not have the expertise in house.
Thanks to SkillsBridge, Newcastle CAB chief executive Shona Alexander was able to secure the help of GVA, one of theUK’s leading commercial property consultants. Through its Newcastle office, GVA, which is regularly consulted on multi-million pound projects, has been a supporter of SkillsBridge since August 2011 when the organisation identified property asset management as a significant knowledge and skills gap in the voluntary and community sector. GVA has offered four volunteers to date, including associate director Neil Mandle.
SkillsBridge arranged for Shona and Neil to meet and discuss the issues faced by Newcastle CAB. They worked together to create a new plan for the building, designed to employ the space available better, brighten up the surroundings and make the office more accessible and user friendly for both staff and CAB’s drop-in visitors. Neil provided Newcastle CAB with a comprehensive and fully costed plan for the building. His contribution has proved to be extremely valuable to Shona and her team and will have saved CAB thousands of pounds.
Shona Alexander, chief executive of Newcastle CAB, comments:
“As a busy city-centre advice service with thousands of visitors every year, our premises are in an ideal location. However as it is grade one listed there are restrictions on how we use the building.
“We wanted to see if we could improve access to the public, especially our cramped waiting room, in keeping with its heritage. SkillsBridge provided us with Neil Mandle at GVA, who has particular expertise in re-designing heritage buildings. He rose to our challenge straight away, and provided us with a very clear proposal on how to improve things. The SkillsBridge initiative was ideal for us. We would never have been able to finance this on our own or commission an architect to do it for us.”
Neil Mandle, an associate in the building division at GVA,Newcastlesaid: "It has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience to work with SkillsBridge and Newcastle CAB. Both organisations provide such an important service and I am just pleased to have had the opportunity to assist them on this project.”
Mike Cuthbertson, regional senior director at GVA,Newcastle who heads up GVA’s input into SkillsBridge added: “As a business that places corporate social responsibility high on the agenda, we wanted to find a way of putting something back into our local community. SkillsBridge has given us the platform to provide pro bono property advice to local community groups and charities, which has already benefited a number of not for profit organisations in the area. This has been a very worthwhile initiative for us.”
Andrew White, chief executive of SkillsBridge, comments: “This is exactly the kind of project that epitomises how SkillsBridge can make a vital and valuable difference to the voluntary and community sector. GVA has been a great supporter of ours and has provided volunteers who bring with them really specialist expertise. It was extremely rewarding to be able to offer Neil’s support when Newcastle CAB was facing a specific and very challenging issue. I’m delighted that the outcome has been so positive and I hope that it inspires more companies to come forward and get involved in the work.”
Neil Mandle has already been a valuable volunteer on a number of other SkillsBridge projects, including advising Streetwise Newcastle on the most efficient use of space for their premises. Businesses that would like to find out more about how they can get involved with SkillsBridge should contact Chris Orrick on 0191 275 5059 or email email@example.com.