(l-r) Dave Pinwell (Colebridge Trust), Tina Williams, Charles Rapson (both Colebridge Enterprises),
Russ Cockburn

Member Article

‘Social success’ at Colebridge Enterprises and Gro-Organic

A social enterprise that provides training, work experience and employment for people with learning disabilities is celebrating assembling its 4 millionth automotive part.

The milestone achievement for Colebridge Enterprises was recognised by ‘Social Value Act’ champion Hazel Blears, who received a guided tour of its Solihull factory before helping to package the landmark component.

Organised by Social Enterprise West Midlands (SEWM) and Social Enterprise UK, the visit also saw the Labour MP and Meriden Constituency candidate Tom McNeil chat to bosses about the opportunities and challenges it faces in securing new contracts and sustaining the growth it has enjoyed since it started in 2012.

She also chatted to members of staff who range from 18 to 55 years-old and have some form of learning disability or have been unemployed for a long time.

“It’s fantastic that we have been involved in assembling and packing 4 million components in just over two years,” explained Dave Pinwell, CEO of Colebridge Trust.

“The majority of this work has been for tier 1 automotive suppliers. This is due to our location in the heart of the Midlands automotive sector, but we can work with any company that wants high quality light assembly or packing work.”

He continued: “Our role is to get individuals back into the work environment by giving them additional support and access to learning opportunities. It’s a launchpad into longer-term employment.

“It was great to show Hazel Blears around, someone who is very passionate about increasing the importance of social value both in the public and private sector.”

Colebridge Enterprises were not the only social enterprise to be highlighted on the visit, with Gro-Organic showcasing its World War II Victory Garden in Chelmsley Wood.

The Community Interest Company (CIC) uses a commercial poly heated tunnel to grow world vegetables that act as a source of fresh produce for the new BAME community who have moved there.

Young people excluded from education and individuals with mental health and complex learning disabilities are also gaining new skills by taking part in the project.

Gro-Organic’s Daniella Ferrarin explained: “It was a pleasure to show people around the WW2 Victory Garden, the outdoor community kitchen and community garden, which have all been designed and built by local residents with mental health and learning difficulties.

“These projects create a wonderful environment for people who are most at risk from long-term unemployment to gain valuable skills through gardening that can be transferred into the workplace whilst improving their physical and emotional wellbeing.”

Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles, commented: “This was a fantastic opportunity for me to see firsthand the energy, creativity and dynamism that social enterprises across the West Midlands are bringing to our economy.

“The workers at Colebridge clearly enjoy coming to work; they can earn a wage, learn valuable skills and do a great job for the automotive industry - it’s a win win for everyone.

“Gro organic is bringing healthy fresh fruit and vegetables to the local community, giving people practical skills and improving their health. This way of working - where local businesses are collaborating with communities - means we get more from every pound we spend. In these cash strapped times it works for everyone. This is real Social Value - Well Done! “

Melanie Mills, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise West Midlands, added her support:

“We’ve got more than 3000 social enterprises in the region, all offering employment opportunities for hard to reach people and, importantly, reinvesting profits back into the communities they serve.”

“Some of them have benefited from the Social Value act, but a lot more can be done to ensure we get both public and private sector organisations thinking about social enterprise when they make procurement decisions.”

She concluded: “We’re not looking for charity. These are excellent businesses with creative ideas and are run by vey good people.

“Colebridge Enterprises has delivered every single one of those 4 million parts on time and has achieved 99.98% right first time quality levels - an achievement very few industry rivals can match! Better still, the absolute and compelling bonus is the social value this business creates.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russ Cockburn .

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