Innovative new programme The Skill Mill aims to get young ex-offenders into work

Published: 18 August 2020

Programme combines paid jobs, training, and mentoring to help high risk young people stay out of the criminal justice system. 
  • The Skill Mill is an intensive six month work programme designed to help vulnerable young people break the cycle ofre-offending and gain work experience.
  • Over 224 young people will be employed, each for six months, gaining a nationally recognised qualification, practical work skills, a wage and an opportunity to progressinto further employment and/​or training.
  • The programme is jointly commissioned by seven Local AuthoritiesBirmingham, Croydon, Durham, Leeds, Nottingham, Rochdale and Surreywith support from theLife Chances Fund (awarded by The National Lottery Community Fund on behalf of the Department forDigital, Culture Media and Sport.)
  • It is structured as a four-year outcomes contract, funded by a social impact bondso the provider is paid for successfully keeping young people out of the criminal justicesystem and achieving other milestones such as gainingan accredited qualification andfurther employment.

High risk young people in seven local authorities can now access a programme that combines paid jobs, training and mentoring that will help them stay out of the criminal justice systemand deliver betteroutcomes for them, their families and the wider community, thanks to aunique collaboration between The Skill Mill (the Social Enterprise delivering the programme), local and central government, social investors and local employers.

The Skill Mill will work with over 224young people involved in serious criminal and anti-social behaviour, who are at high risk of committing further offences. These young people will beoffered a six month job with support designed to help address their underlyingissues andimprove their life chances. This programme is intensive, based on rigorous evidence gainedover the past six years and designed to integrate young people back into the labour marketand society.

Jobs are primarily in theenvironmental maintenance and construction sectors and are shown to improve emotional and physical wellbeing through being outdoors and with significantcontact with nature.

Funding for the programme is initially being provided by four social investors jointly led by Northstar Ventures and Big Issue Invest, plusCAF Venturesomeand the Resonance WestMidlands SITRFund. Social Finance has sponsored the programme and will provideperformance management services to the project.

The initiative will be operated by The Skill Mill, an award-winning Social Enterprise working in partnership with some of the country’s most progressive and socially responsible employers,who collectively bring decades of experience of implementing evidence-based programmesacross the UK and further afield.

Structured as a social outcomes contract, The Skill Mill Partnership will be paid only if it succeeds in keeping the young person’s progress on the programme and achieving theoutcomes linked to employability and no further courtconvictions.

The Skill Mill Partnership will benefit from management support from Social Finance UK and the Social Investment group, with the latter providing over £1m of risk capital. The Youth Justice Board (England and Wales) is also supporting the programme in a strategic advisory capacity.

David Parks, Managing Director of The Skill Mill said:

This programme is the culmination of many months of hard work and dedication from all partners who are committed to improvingthe life chances of some of the most vulnerable young people in society. These young peoplewho have been drawn into criminality need a realistic opportunity to break the cycle. The Skill Mill achieves this by helping to change their identity from one of offender to an employeewith legitimate income, self-respect and a desire to change their behaviour and contributepositively to society and the economy.

Richard Parsons Major Projects Director, Maritime and Aviation,Royal HaskoningDHV said:

Royal HaskoningDHV has been proud to support the Skill Mill over the lifetime of the social enterprise, working alongside the team to support young people as they emerge from thecriminal justice system, and to break down barriers to a successful and fulfilling life away fromcrime.Seeing the lives and livelihoods of these young people being transformed is hugelyrewarding. We look forward to continuing our partnership as they expand their reach andsupport across these seven local authorities, and to using our own national reach and contacts to create even more opportunities for young people at risk of reoffending.

Ian Richards, Director, Northstar Ventures said:

We’re delighted to be supporting Skill Mill and this innovative initiative along with otherpartners who have worked to make this SocialImpact Bond a reality. The social impact this will have and the difference it will make to somany young people’s lives is inspiring.

Birmingham Councillor Kate Booth, Cabinet Member Children’s Wellbeing, said:

Creating inclusive employment opportunities for the most disadvantaged young people is a priority for all Local Authorities, especially with the current Covid-19 pandemic as we progress to therecovery phase. The Skill Mill is providing young people withrealistic prospects in the jobmarket, developing skills and knowledge which will be vital to employers who are building aresilient local workforce.As a Local Authority commissioner we are delighted to be supportingthis payment by results initiative with support from the Life Chances Fund which will deliverpositive outcomes and opportunities for the young people that are employed and the wider community.

Jonathan Flory, Director of Social Finance said:

Skill Mill Partnership is an innovative public/​private initiative with committed funding for afour-yearprogramme to help youngoffenders gain work experience. It builds links with local employers and offers intensive support in a challenging marketplace.The combination of social investment and grantthat is being committed will give the Skill Mill organisationthe flexibility and resources it needs todeliver improved outcomes for young offenders.

Sergio Sanchez, Investment Manager Big Issue Invest: 

We are proud to be supporters of The Skill Mill programme providing training, employment and opportunities for young ex-offenders. This is an exciting partnership providing much needed support andopportunities foryoung people at a time when opportunitiesfor work are required now more than ever. Theprogramme links closely to our group mission to support the most vulnerable in society withself-help solutions to provide people with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty.

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