Constructing Youth Employment Opportunities Through Social Enterprise

From: Business Link
Published: Tue Feb 23 2010

A new social enterprise Martells N Hoodies, begun by Mark Turrell with support and guidance from Business Link, is helping to transform the lives of 10 young people in Kent by teaching them valuable building skills which directly benefit their local communities.

Mark Turrell from Dartford, Kent was convicted of a criminal offence at the age of 25 in 2002. Having served his time and following his release at the end of 2008, Mark realised his conviction could potentially hamper his route into full-time employment so he considered starting his own business.

"I knew I wanted to do something positive for the youth community of Dartford, and to use the skills I learnt whilst serving my sentence. My partner Laura Morgans and I went to the Business Link website, after we had been told about how they could help move my idea forward," said Mark. "Following an email request for information, we were contacted by Melodie Webster, from Business Link, who helps business start-ups in the North Kent area. Melodie advised me on how to turn my idea into a business, and guided me through the stages of starting a social enterprise – a business for the good of the local community."

Dartford is classed as a deprived area within Kent, with high levels of youth related street crime. Mark had noticed that a growing number of local 16-30 year olds were headed towards prison as a result of various issues within their local communities in areas of south London bordering Kent. With assistance from Laura, Mark set up ‘Martells N Hoodies’ during 2009, a youth apprenticeship scheme offering support and advice to young people in the region, and providing them with a safe and understanding environment in which to train and study as well as socialise.

Mark explains, "The project’s main aim is to help young people become constructive, rather than destructive within their communities. We have an initial group of 10 young people on our apprenticeship scheme, which provides access to construction and trade skills including painting and decorating, and ultimately helps them to get a job. Our aim is to help build communities, and to double the number of apprentices over the coming year. I’m keen for other disadvantaged young people to avoid making the same mistakes I did."

"The apprenticeship opportunities are really ‘hands on’ and enable young people, who have often come out of education with low self esteem and no formal qualifications, to grow in confidence as their abilities improve. Through the project, we aim to provide an outlet for creativity by re-generating old, disused or dilapidated properties - particularly within areas which need of a youth or community space."

As well as learning a trade, Martells N Hoodies helps young people gain widely recognised skills such as the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Site Safety qualification, plus access to fantastic work experience opportunities. The social enterprise has the potential to reduce crime in the community by engaging with the young people.

Melodie Webster, from Business Link in North Kent said, "Enterprise, and enterprising individuals, boost the local economy – my role is to help people to spot opportunities, utilise their talents and develop the skills and confidence necessary to succeed in business. Mark and Laura’s drive and inspiration has been a joy to support. He is one of the many aspiring entrepreneurs who we help to turn their dreams into reality with coaching and intensive support to overcome setbacks such as facing unemployment after a conviction."

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For more information about Business Link’s support for individual who are thinking about starting a business or are in the early stages of running a business and face barriers to enterprise because of personal circumstances visit
Company: Business Link
Contact Name: Katie Mason
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 02380 613255

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