Building a brighter future

Building a brighter future

As the leader of a cutting-edge South Tyneside business centre, Siobhan O’Brien has a vision for the future and that includes investing in the young, as Ruth Lognonne discovered.
The business manager of One Trinity Green, Siobhan O’Brien, is championing the mutual benefits of taking on apprentices.

As an organisation that strives to improve local society through programmes that inspire and teach, she is aware that One Trinity’s actions should speak every bit as loud as its words.

For any organisation with a vision for the future, investing in the young is a priority,” she said. “After all, they are the workers of tomorrow and the more skilled they are the more productive and successful their employer will be.

“Ensuring employers grasp this fact and provide opportunities - and that young people exploit each and every chance they are given - is vital.

And indeed they do, as One Trinity’s commitment is demonstrated through the training opportunities it provides and in the staff it employs. A high percentage of those who now work for the organisation arrived as volunteers or on work experience placements.

That they have progressed is testament in equal measure to their hard work, talent and dedication, says O’Brien.

She said: “We provide numerous opportunities through our placements and programmes at our centres across the region, as well as in our partnerships with likeminded organisations.

“We see clearly the huge benefits these policies bring, and I know many other organisations – from the corner café to the largest PLC – already do too.

“Young people in our organisation are helping us to achieve our vision of vibrant, healthy and safe communities where the environment is respected and where individuals and enterprise prosper.”

One Trinity Green was a collaboration between the council and Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle.

It has 35 managed offices, four workshops and two hybrid units, and is designed to attract hi-tech traders into South Tyneside.

The project got £2,466,500 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund and provides extensive support services for tenants to help their business flourish.

It has meeting and conference rooms with free Wifi, a roof top garden and communal areas.

Groundwork provides apprenticeships, work experience and voluntary opportunities, all of which give a skills grounding.

Its programmes have recently seen a teenage girl complete an eight-week work experience placement at Groundwork’s Green Gym and two others are now learning all aspects of reception duties on a six-month contract.

O’Brien said: “We also employ apprentices to learn administration skills on reception at our Eco Centre in Hebburn, here at One Trinity Green and also at our West Boldon Lodge education centre.

“One talented teenager, who worked as a project assistant within our Young People Portfolio initiative, has progressed on to studying for a Level 2 business administration qualification while gaining workplace experience.

“So grown in confidence is she that she has taken up a peer mentoring role to assist on our support and mentoring project and has been nominated for an outstanding young achiever award.

“Others work with us as catering assistants within South Shields Town Hall and at the Exhibition Park Café in Newcastle. Some had little practical experience but now work front of house and can cook. With placements of up to six months, many of those involved are able to be offered roles with us afterwards.”

One Trinity’s business centre in South Shields has offered two young people eight-week work experience placements through the Job Centre, while another secured an apprenticeship in a health centre after volunteering.

It offers further support through programmes including Return to Form, a course designed to help 16 to 19-year-olds develop skills, gain confidence and get new experiences from challenging activities, while trying out different careers.

It even offers placements to undergraduates, usually those on geography and environmental management courses at Northumbria University.

O’Brien concluded: “We are certainly not alone in trying to help young people and work closely with, amongst others, South Tyneside Council who are at the forefront of many initiatives in South Tyneside aimed at capitalising on the wealth of untapped talent that exists.”

The council’s ‘Apprenticeships – Skills for the Future’ initiative is on target to create 200 apprenticeships in the borough by March 2014, with 165 already hired.