A Newcastle upon Tyne social enterprise that has helped hundreds of young people break the chain of re-offending has received royal approval today after it claimed two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
The Skill Mill, which delivers an intensive six-month work programme to get 16 to 18-year-olds back into employment and away from crime, was one of only three organisations across the UK to win a double prize, claiming recognition in the ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility)’ categories.
It comes after a highly successful year for the team, which has seen it secure over £1m of investment to take its model to ten other areas, including Birmingham, Croydon, Leeds, Nottingham and West Sussex.
This means that over 250 more young offenders will be offered training and employment opportunities with businesses or local authorities, working predominantly on projects and contracts that have an environmental or social impact.
Davie Parks, Founder of The Skill Mill and Managing Director, was delighted with the achievement: “To be awarded one Queen’s Award is amazing, to get two is something none of us could ever have imagined. It’s fantastic recognition for our staff, partners and the young people we help – they’ve all shown such resilience and fortitude in the past year to grow our services and increase our geographic reach.
“Covid-19 has impacted young people’s labour market hardest and especially for those on the margins. We will use this profile to continue the next steps in our journey and it will make us even more determined to increase opportunity and sustainability through our work.”
The Skill Mill has had just 16 reconvictions out of the 194 people it has helped so far, which equates to an 8% rate compared to the Ministry of Justice national average of 72% for young people who have been convicted of eleven or more previous offences.
The average cost to the whole system of a young offender per year, including police, prison, court and the Youth Offending Service, is estimated to be £112,000, so in its six years the social enterprise has helped save the taxpayer more than £20m.
Bosses are now looking to build on the recent geographic expansion and is urging more companies to come forward to partner with them on projects.
“They’ll be in good company, joining the likes of Balfour Beatty, Commercial Estates Group, The Environment Agency, Royal HaskoningDHV and United Utilities,” continued Davie.
“We want to really push on and the Queen’s Award triumph will definitely help raise the profile of our work and encourage more local areas and firms to invest in The Skill Mill.”