Copper creates new opportunities

Wed 17 Apr 2024

Our Copper Foundation started in 2017 with the aim of giving people with little or no work experience the opportunity to work locally.

Seven years on we have made a difference to the lives of many people who had given up hope of finding
work or with little experience on their CV. It’s been the confidence boost they needed, and we caught up with members of the latest intake to see what they think of the programme.

Our Copper Foundation started giving recruits 12-month contracts back in 2017, working on improving the outside spaces of tenants homes.

Since it’s early beginnings with just seven recruits, the initiative has given opportunities to 86 people. Now, seven years on and with the programme going from strength to strength, we’ve been to catch up with the current crop to see how the programme is helping them.

What’s noticeable about the current intake of Copper Foundation recruits is the variety of backgrounds they all come from.

There’s Dylan, aged just 16 and in his first job since leaving school last summer; Sarah, who lost her previous job during the pandemic and wanted something that would fit around her family life; Mike who left a job as a glass cutter in a factory to go back to his first love of construction, and Dave, who having been deaf since birth, wanted a job where he wouldn’t be held back by his disability.

“It’s fabulous seeing people from all sorts of backgrounds coming to work on the Copper Foundation” said Maelgwyn, the team’s supervisor.

“There’s no typical recruit, we take on anyone who just needs a little help getting into work, whether that’s someone straight out of school with no experience, someone looking for a career change, or someone for whatever reason, just couldn’t get a break. As long as they come with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn then they’ll be a great addition to the team. Oh, and an ability to withstand the cold and wet helps too!

“We don’t just train them in the practical work, we also help them gain qualifications, teach them about the importance of health and safety or even help them write a CV. Our ultimate aim is to get them to a place where they can successfully apply for other jobs once their year with us comes to an end.”

One person to do this was Ian, who joined in 2021 and is currently working as a caretaker with us:
“Being part of the Copper Foundation was an amazing experience. I learned so much and gained practical  skills, even being supported to learn to drive. Not only that, I was also helped by the team when I was  having some difficulties in my personal life. I’m extremely grateful to them for that.

“After my year on the project, I went on to gain work with the facilities team, initially helping to look after our main office building, but now I’m out and about in the community, looking after our blocks of flats. 

"It’s a great job, my mental health has never been better, and I genuinely love coming into work every day.  None of this would have been possible without the opportunities the Copper Foundation gave me in the first place.”

The next recruit is David, he joined the foundation after moving to the area and struggling to find work:
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team, everyone has been really supportive.

"I’m deaf, but things have been put in place to help me succeed, such as providing a telephone interpreter. I can lip read and am also lucky that my colleague Sarah has a good understanding of sign language, so I can communicate with her.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence during my time with the foundation. So much so, that I recently applied for  a role with our grounds maintenance team, and I’ll be starting with them in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to get going and learning new skills, especially around biodiversity."

For Mike, his Copper Foundation experience is slightly different:
“I previously worked in the building trade before going to work in a glass factory. When my time there came to an end, I wanted to get back to doing what I enjoyed most, construction. The Copper Foundation was a great opportunity to do this. 

"However, when my year on the project was coming to an end, instead of looking for a new job, they asked me to stay on and use what I’d learned, together with my previous experience, to help train the  newcomers. That was five years ago, and I’m still here helping the youngsters to learn and progress.”

Sarah’s background is varied. Having been a carpenter, publican and manager, she lost her previous job as a result of the pandemic.

Looking for a new role and new challenge, she joined the Copper Foundation, and hasn’t looked back:
“After losing my last job, I was looking around for something a bit different.

"I saw an advert for the Copper Foundation on Facebook, so I applied, thinking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’

“I love the hands-on nature of the job and that it’s less stressful than my previous managerial job. The fact it fits around my family life so I can take my children to school in the morning is also a big plus.”

Dylan, just 16 and in his first job is on something of a learning curve:
“I left school last summer and when I saw the job advertised, I jumped at the chance. It’s a chance for me to gain lots of experience. I’ve already learned about concreting, a bit of carpentry and bricklaying.

"Being out in all weathers takes a bit of getting used to, I hate the rain, but apart from that it’s all been good fun.”

Final word goes to Maelgwyn, who is justifiably proud of his team and of previous recruits:
“The Copper Foundation is a lifeline for many people.

“I’m very proud of the work it does and the people on it – the fact that 90% of the people who complete their year with us go on to find other jobs is a great testament to everyone’s hard work and determination.

“I’m still in touch with past recruits and really enjoy hearing about how they’re progressing in their new roles.

“It’s a great feeling seeing people develop over the course of the year, learning new skills and also growing in confidence. For me, that’s one of the best things about this job.”

The Copper Foundation will be recruiting again later in the year. Keep an eye on our social media channels for more details.