Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 15.44.49A real community effort is turning a dilapidated old shop unit in Morpeth into a high quality office to host a new employability and job skills service.

This week, dozens of volunteers have descended on the former Stobhill Community Link building on Shields Road, to transform it into the sparkling new ‘iLearn’ Centre.

Staff from Isos Housing, who are leading the project, have been working alongside partners from all sides of the business world, public sector and voluntary sector to make the project happen.

As a not-for-profit housing association, Isos decided to invest staff time in the project, instead of financial investment, and now private sector partners have stepped up to provide thousands of pounds worth of building materials, decorating equipment, paint, and volunteers to make the project come to fruition.

The finished product will be unveiled at a special opening event to be held on Friday, November 27th, with local MP Ian Lavery unveiling a plaque.

iLearn is a partnership between Isos, Northern Learning Trust (NLT) and Northumberland Community Enterprise Ltd. (NCEL) aimed at improving employment opportunities for everyone in this part of Morpeth. Most homes in Stobhill are owned and managed by Isos.

The iLearn project sits at the heart of an Isos housing estate, and brings together the knowledge and understanding that NCEL has of the locality and the expertise of NLT to provide support to local residents to improve their English, Maths, ICT and employability skills.

There will also be two volunteer training programmes which will be delivered over the next year. Finally, the iLearn project will also work with people in the community who have low level mental health problems.

The partners have recognised that many people who claim Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance experience difficulties dealing with Jobcentre Plus, particularly attending and coping with work focussed interviews. This can often be due to their mental health issues.

The project will work with ‘Stepping Up Community Confidence’, an organisation who are specifically funded to reach this target group.

Isos has worked with all sides of the community to support Stobhill Community Link in recent years, with local councillor Ian Lindley being supportive on many occasions.

Isos wants to thank all its partners who helped to make the project possible:

  • Albany Contract Furniture – provided low cost office furniture and designed a new glass partition
  • ASKAMS – funded the refurbishment work
  • Easi-lay Flooring – installed new carpet tiles and provided safety flooring for the iLearn Centre’s bathroom.
  • Esh Property Services – provided two site managers to assist with re-decorating.
  • Jewson Ltd – provided all decorating materials for free
  • MITIE – provided carpet cleaner with upholstery attachment to clean office chairs
  • Newcastle Flooring Company Limited – donated new carpet tiles for free
  • Strettle of Newcastle – providing a new granite plaque at a discounted price
  • Waymid Electrics – cash donation of £100 towards cost of project

Warwick Durnian, community investment officer for Isos, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by all the help and donations we have had to help make this project possible.

“When you see DIY SOS on television, you think it couldn’t happen that way, but everyone has been so fantastic, all coming together to refurbish this building into a really welcoming environment, so we can get this project up and running.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 15.44.56