Grimsby’s East Marsh is one of the most deprived wards in Europe. Its trajectory of decline, the loss of its major industry and the total neglect of central government has been replicated throughout the North. However, this is not a story of despair. Despite the scars inflicted by poor housing, low pay, insecure employment and a general lack of hope, we here at East Marsh United have been working against the odds to find a route out of this crisis, making change happen by our own collective effort and sheer force of will.
A significant group of projects are flourishing but our construction arm, which should be an absolute breakthrough initiative has hit unforeseen difficulties. Our objectives are straightforward given that the two major issues in the ward are housing and skilled, well paid employment: we are buying houses, refurbishing them and providing secure, quality, affordable homes for East Marshians.
We have secured over £200,000 from the Community Housing Fund, initially to buy three houses on the East Marsh and refurbish them. We will then become an ethical community landlord and as we roll out to forty houses in our four-year plan, we will begin to transform the area – one house at a time.
Integral to this is the recruitment of young people to train and to ultimately gain employment. We have hired two construction professionals and this week ten young people begin a four month programme to become industry-ready, working in a hands-on practical environment.
The next phase is to start a two-year apprenticeship with permanent employment on completion. Given the time, effort and planning required to get this far from a standing start you would assume that this latter phase would be a seamless progression – especially given the terrible, urgent need and our own determination to make this happen, to make our East Marsh home beautiful.
Nope. Our application to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) was rejected on the grounds that our organisation is involved in areas of activity other than construction. This means that we miss out on the Apprenticeship Levy drawdown of funding to support the training.
We haven’t given up. It’s too important – these are our lives – and we have taken advice on a new application, a new potential avenue to follow. It feels like a permanent uphill struggle, but we do not give up. Above all, we will not stand by and witness some really excellent young people be deprived of a career and a future.
So, we need a helping hand.
We would like to link with construction employers, large and small and, if possible, the Grimsby Federation of Master Builders to enable us to provide a bridge from our initial training to a full apprenticeship with them. So, we need local employers to partner us. We can offer you keen, industry-ready applicants with a proven record of attendance and timekeeping earned by working in the industry. This is a huge advantage to you rather than the hazard of taking someone on after only an initial interview.
And money – if anybody would like to make a donation to us to help us over this early startup difficulty, that would be greatly appreciated. We’re not set up yet for website donations so if you email firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll give bank details for a bank transfer.
The skills shortage, both nationally, and locally, is critical. Together, we can break this impasse and offer young people in Grimsby the range of opportunities many of us enjoyed at their age. We can give something back while at the same time employing good people and begin to lift the area. Most importantly we can recreate that increasingly elusive dream, the expectation of a rewarding, secure and worthwhile life.