An immensely cheerful thread through the last complicated year has been watching the young people who have been working with our micro social enterprise Trades4Care thrive and grow in confidence and skill. One charismatic co-director Charlie has kept the work going through lockdowns and snowstorms, picking up the students from home if necessary, organising Covid precautions, providing reliable good humour and optimism and treating every young peson he works with as an interesting and talented young adult. Our other co-director, Andrew, has managed to provide productive mentoring and pastoral support too, despite emergency surgery which has left him delivering socially distanced teaching and coaching wearing a piratical patch over one eye.
The kids have been a joy, throwing themselves enthusiastically into the work, avidly learning new skills, loving being part of a professional team, and quickly appreciating the importance of proper behaviour on site and courteous interaction with the client. The clients without exception have been impressed and interested. We renovated a church hall which has been acting as a food bank and community hub to such effect that the committee came to present each student with a letter and an Easter egg, there have been positive tweets from MPs and community leaders, and the kids themselves have taken to social media to promote T4C and made TikTok videos towards their college courses. Never a job goes by without at least one cake day, and Charlie always organises fish and chip Friday to end the week. At the end of each placement the students receive vouchers and goody bags of tools and equipment subsidised by local businesses.
We keep in touch with all our ‘alumni’ and most of them return to do more work with us, gradually acquiring more skills and expertise. Shy kids have come out of their shells, challenging ones have learned the pleasures of stepping up to be part of a team, kids with physical or learning needs have discovered that with patient and cheerful guidance they can do a good job. We are already helping the keenest to get more professional work, apprenticeships, and jobs. Our dream of providing a supportive and stimulating path to fulfilling trades work for as long as young people in our area need it is starting to materialise and it’s one of the happiest things I’ve been involved in for a long time.