Building skills for life and empowering change: Social change organisation renovating homes and transforming lives

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An unemployed woman from Resolven in South Wales, who lacked the confidence, skills, and qualifications to secure a job, has now secured a job in the construction industry following a placement with the Community Impact Initiative.

The Community Impact Initiative is a not-for-profit organisation that combines skill development and learning with community regeneration. Following the receipt of £276K from the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund, the Community Impact Initiative was able to kickstart its ‘Building Resilience in Communities’ project last year.

The ‘Building Resilience’ project involves purchasing, renovating and regenerating properties across South Wales, focusing on improving wellbeing and confidence and ensuring the positive progression for unemployed people in the area.

Steph Piper, 29, is one of the people the programme has supported. Prior to getting involved in the project Steph was unemployed and lacked the confidence and self-esteem, alongside the relevant skills and experience, to secure a full-time job. However, her love of DIY led her to sign up to a course with the Community Impact Initiative to improve her skills.

Since then, Steph has gone on to gain the skills and qualifications she needed to secure a full-time job in the construction industry.

The 29-year-old said “I was really struggling to find any courses that suited my experience and skills, so when I came across the building resilience course with the Community Impact Initiative, I registered my interest straight away. I have previously struggled a lot with confidence and self-esteem – which has held me back in the past, but this course was different. It was very relaxed, and everyone seemed to be in the same position as me, which put me at ease. We all got on and helped and supported one another. We became like a little working family. It was such a great experience.”

Not only did Steph acquire practical, hands-on experience and skills, she was able to gain the vital qualifications she needed to secure a job at the end of the course.

Steph added: “The course changed my attitude to both life and work, and gave me the confidence, motivation, and skills I needed to get a job. The course was a fantastic opportunity and has helped me to turn my life around.”

The Community Impact Initiative, committed to the development, improvement and sustainability of its communities, applied for the funding to get its ‘Building Resilience in Communities’ project off the ground. The project involves purchasing properties across the South Wales Valleys of Neath, Rhondda, Cynon and Afan. The 1st property renovation took place in Clyne, the 2nd in Glynneath and the third is now in Melincourt in Neath. Not only does the project renovate and rejuvenate derelict and disused properties and transform them into new homes, they use local suppliers, while also helping unemployed and unskilled people get back into work.

Once the renovation projects are complete, most of the participants are either referred on to further education, learning or employment through placements or apprenticeships.

Trystan Jones, Chief Executive at The Community Impact Initiative said: “The project aims to support people, who like Steph, need a helping hand into full-time employment. We support them by helping to improve their health and well-being, build their confidence, learn new skills, achieve qualifications and make positive life improvements through the purchase and renovation of properties.

“Without the money from The Fund the project simply would not have been possible.

“The impact the project has had on people like Steph has been life-changing and it has given them the boost they needed to find themselves a career pathway for the future.”

Berry Jordan, Business and Community Investment Advisor at Vattenfall said: “Vattenfall is committed to partnering with Welsh communities, and we are pleased to support projects like the Community Impact Initiative through the Fund that work to develop skills and drive employment locally.

“Enabling people to get back into work, boosting confidence and skills will have a long-lasting impact on individuals and make communities stronger as a whole.”