Hundreds of people across central Barnsley have found work, developed life skills, started their journey back into work or found access to further support thanks to the innovative Community Boost Project.
The Community Boost Central project has been working with local people, businesses, and organisations across the Central Area Council area of Barnsley (which covers the council wards of Kingstone, Worsbrough, Stairfoot, Dodworth and Central). Its aim was to help boost the growth of good employment and ensure local people access it. The programme received £2.4m from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund and was supported by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
There were more than 15 different projects aimed at boosting good employment, boosting economic success and ensuring local residents can access the jobs created.
As a result of the eight-month programme, by working with a range of partners:
- We’ve helped 564 people engage in life skills
- We’ve helped 33 people find a new job
- We’ve helped 229 people engage in job searching
- 9 new businesses have been created
- We’ve safeguarded 23 jobs as a result of support
- We’ve worked with volunteers to renovate more than 18 sq km of green space
- We’ve helped 44 economically inactive people engage with the benefits system
The projects fitted into four groups, which were supporting people into employment, investing in skills, supporting businesses, and supporting communities and place.
They included Have a Go sessions where people were able to develop a wide range of skills, from bricklaying to floristry, cake making to fork-lift truck driving. These free courses helped people try something new, or develop a skill, which in some cases have started the journey into a new career.
The Grow Mentoring project gave pupils in years 10 to 13 the chance to work with a relatable role-model in the form of recent graduates from Sheffield Hallam University or University of Sheffield. These mentors helped guide, champion and inspire the pupils, who had seen their education disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Net Zero Accelerator programme has been providing specialist support to dozens of local businesses to help them cut carbon emissions. The programme, run by The Business Village, has helped 35 key employers start work on environmentally friendly action plans. This is helping them reduce their impact on the environment as well as growing their business.
Director of Worsbrough-based White’s Bakery, David White, said: “Net Zero Barnsley has been fantastic in helping us to get our heads around our impact on the environment and work out what actions we can take to become a more sustainable business.
“We’ve seen an impact straight away with the changes we have made. We’re now keen to monitor gas and electricity meters weekly, the subject of carbon emissions is always on the agenda of our management meetings and all staff are mindful of saving energy and reducing waste in their work.
“As businesses, we’ve all got a duty to try our best to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
Central area resident Lorna Williams took part in several different parts of the programme which gave her a wide range of opportunities to get out in her community, meet new people and try new things. She now regularly volunteers with local charities.
“I’ve done all sorts, I’ve been out litter picking, delivering leaflets, putting up furniture in old people’s homes, cleaning and changing batteries in the toys for a children’s play group, I’ve done a computer course, I’ve tried pottery.
“I discovered the programme through Barnsley Beacon, a charity that supports carers. I didn’t realise I was a carer, but I’ve lived with someone who had an addiction. With Community Boost, getting out and trying different things, different opportunities away from what’s been going on in my day-to-day life, it’s just been excellent. I’ve got so much more confidence, and I’m now driving a van for the local charity Exodus.”
Another resident, Bernie Simpson, said: “For me Community Boost has just been about people coming together, being kind to each other. We’ve done lots of volunteering, and been to Cannon Hall making things. I’m really proud of what we’ve all achieved.”
Meanwhile Jess Kirk, who took part in the Cybersecurity for schools programme as part of Community Boost, has begun a two-year apprenticeship with local cybersecurity firm Bob’s Business as a result of the programme.
She said: “It’s made a huge difference for me. I came to this because I wanted some work experience, to find out what this career path may be like in a professional environment. It’s ended up opening a clear path for me into an industry and a career that I wanted to take.”
Cllr Chris Lamb, Deputy Leader of Barnsley Council, said: “We’re so proud of the Community Boost programme and the impact the work of the council and a wide range of partner organisations has achieved.
“We believe in the possibilities of Barnsley and we’re looking to the future with excitement and optimism, and with this programme we wanted to try something a little different. We’ve targeted local residents and local businesses at the same time to boost local business growth, boost people’s chances of getting back into work, and in some cases simply boost people’s confidence so they can play a more active role in their community.
“We’ve learned a lot through this work in the Central area of Barnsley. Now we want to build on this to help boost communities right across our borough as we help build a healthy, growing, learning and more sustainable Barnsley.”
Two videos have been produced. One shows some of the highlights from three of the projects, while another was captured at a closure event where some of those involved in the projects, including several residents, give their reflections on the project.
Picture: A new stone bench at Worsbrough Mill, which Community Boost volunteers helped create.