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About B4Box

B4box began trading in September 2008. It operates in Greater Manchester and The North West and is constituted as a building company.  From the outset the vision has been to bring empty properties back into use to provide housing, but also to provide training in building construction.

There are thousands of empty properties nationwide, as well as an estimated construction worker skills shortage of around 750,000. B4Box has found a way of addressing both those problems at once, and is on a mission to deliver its model on a wider scale.

The B4Box Model

B4box delivers quality building services to local authorities and other property owners and at the same time guarantees to employ and train a high volume of local people. 

Accordingly, it takes 80% of its employees from people on benefits, who are distant from the labour market and who live in the locality. They are then fully trained both on and off site, to NVQ level 2 and 3. 

No other builder will guarantee that. It is not “added value” as far as B4Box is concerned, it’s the core value

The Properties

The properties are owned by local authorities, ALMOs ( Arms Length Management Organisations) and housing associations. The funding for their renovation comes through the participating landlords, in a variety of packages.

At any one time, there are around 6 houses in refurbishment and during its first year of operation  B4Box has completed 68 houses. This has sustained 14 new jobs/training places.

The company is now in its second year and have several new contracts starting, making it possible to provide up to 40 new sustainable jobs

A recently completed property owned by Salford City Council had been empty for 18 years. Salford funded the renovation costs of c£60k and within a matter of weeks it had been brought back into use. Not only was it possible to provide a family with a house of their own, but the only empty property blighting a road had been removed.   

Occupants

Once brought back into use the properties are handed on to their owners and the  eventual occupants will be people in housing need, both singles and families, but mainly the latter.

Training

The training is funded through local colleges, Employability initiatives and C Skills (Construction Industry Training Board).

What is provided is a full-framework NVQ programme which addresses skills which are in short supply in the current labour market, particularly multi-skills. As a result, B4box is able to “home-grow” employable local workers with housing repair skills such as kitchen/bathroom fitting, window fitting, plastering, brickwork, joinery, tiling etc.

Community Dividend

B4box has developed and brokered local community partnerships encompassing, Colleges, Job centres, employability initiatives, Cskills, Procurement vehicles and the Local Authorities. As a result, they are  able to target and focus the funds of all participants (and the corporate aims) to create sustainable jobs and training, whilst renovating the properties. The result of this is that the houses are delivered on time and at a high quality AND local jobs (maximum 3 mile radius from houses) are created.

This has a wider impact on the community both economically (wages earned and spent in the community, from previous claimants) and in terms of perception. People can “see” that their friends are getting real jobs and training and it inspires others in the deprived areas. This “jigsaw” of participating agencies, all working together has been the real core of the results. The MD of B4box (Aileen McDonnell) is preparing a document, with the input of the other supporting agencies, which will be available February 2010.

In addition they have also just completed a Community Centre and intend to do more of that sort of work.

Future Plans

There has been a great deal of interest in B4Box’s model and they will be starting a contract in Preston (January 2010) and Greater Manchester (January 2010). They are also in discussions in Cumbria, Lancashire and Rochdale - all to start in 2010.

 

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