News story

Minister sees Big Society in action in Southampton

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham visits the Wheatsheaf Trust which is helping local people to gain valuable skills and training.

Baroness Hanham was in Southampton to hear from local trainees how an innovative partnership of voluntary and private sector organisations is helping the local community back into work.

The Wheatsheaf Trust works to promote social inclusion by providing employment advice and programmes to support people in finding work and training. The centre helps around 1,750 people a year gain valuable skills and training.

Baroness Hanham said:

The Wheatsheaf Trust is an excellent example of how the formation of local partnerships allows enterprise to steer priorities. I am pleased to see how the Trust supports those in the local community who are having difficulties with employment, by giving them the confidence and skills to look for and achieve a stable working future. This is a good example of the Big Society in action.

The minister toured the centre, met staff and discovered how the trust addresses local employment and job training needs, through forming close working links with local employers.

Michael Oakley, 21, on Wheatsheaf’s Future Jobs programme, talked to Baroness Hanham while attending the Finding and Getting a Job Course. He commented:

I’m a qualified welder but there’s no work around. I felt there was more opportunities for me if I trained. At the Wheatsheaf Trust I enrolled on the construction skills workshop - part of it is a carpentry module. It has definitely helped me, I now know that carpentry is my future, and I will build on the basic carpentry skills I have already learnt here.

Matthew Davis, 20, a trainee on Wheatsheaf’s Future Jobs programme, was in the construction skills workshop when Baroness Hanham visited. He said:

At the Wheatsheaf trust I have learnt basic construction industry skills brick-laying, carpentry and painting. This has built on my previous NVQ2 in carpentry and added to my skills. I am also more confident, as I have met more people. Through doing the course I have become more positive and plan to get a job in the construction industry so I can use my new skills.

Elizabeth Fells, Head of Public Service Reform at the CBI, welcomed Baroness Hanham’s visit, saying:

The work done by A4e and the Wheatsheaf Trust is an excellent example of how the private and voluntary sector can work together to provide good quality services to the local community, on behalf of the local authority. Encouraging the development of more partnerships like this will be crucial to ensuring we can continue to provide the services people expect on a local level during this period of economic challenge.

Jonathan Cheshire, Chief Executive, Wheatsheaf Trust added:

We were very pleased to meet Baroness Hanham and show her our work. It was good to have the opportunity to show how the effectiveness of our work is amplified by productive partnerships with companies like A4E and public bodies like Southampton City Council.

More photographs of the visit are available from the DCLG Flickr channel