You may have heard that Great Britain has been wrestling with an energy shortage and has many of the “welfare” type problems we have been exposed to in the US. This leads to large numbers of old and barely livable housing units that are outmoded. Even with the many government building programs and the wide availability of government support programs for non-workers, their housing units are gobbling the heat and cooling energy. In part because of the government assistance programs the houses keep gobbling fuel with little prospect of repairing the properties and conserving the energy that is in short supply. So one woman stepped up with a solution. In Greater Manchester, social entrepreneur Aileen McDonnell has an answer: take local people, many of them long-term unemployed or struggling to find a decent job, train them in skills such as carpentry, plastering, brickwork, tiling and roofing, and put them to work refurbishing some of the area’s rundown public housing. Result? Greener, healthier, more comfortable homes; reduced energy bills; lower carbon emissions; and hundreds of workers with highly in-demand, useful skills.
Aileen’s pioneering retrofit academy is doing what our politicians can’t seem to – insulating homes across Britain, with the help of ex-prisoners and single mothers. Green Skills and Retrofitting are phrases which trip off the tongue of pretty much every aspiring politician these days. Sounds like a no-brainer – until you ask, “who exactly is going to do the work?” An awkward question, at a time when the UK has a quite desperate shortage of skilled construction workers. Since McDonnell launched her non-profit educational company, ‘B4Box’, it has created training and permanent job opportunities for some 1,400 workers, many of whom started with no qualifications, and upgraded over 5,000 properties. B4Box trains single mums, ex-prisoners and young people who’ve been excluded from school. To the surprise of many in the local authorities she worked with, this not only delivered for the occupant, it was also highly cost-efficient. Spurred on by that experience, she set up B4Box as a for-profit company with a strong social mission – and has never looked back. Born and brought up in public housing, McDonnell won a scholarship to a grammar school, and was able to go to university in the halcyon days of full grants, free accommodation and no tuition fees. And it all sprung from McDonnell’s personal experience, as a relative newbie in the construction field, of helping co-ordinate the refurbishment of local accommodation for disabled people. B4Box won the prestigious international Ashden Award for Low Carbon Skills last year.
Aileen McDonnell’s, “I was literally the only woman. I was the only one who said, ‘I’m interested in construction.” Instead, McDonnell was fired up by the prospect of making existing homes fit to live in. The fact that this would almost inevitably make them greener too was an added bonus. She set up a charity, Manchester Care and Repair, and scored early successes in retrofitting disabled people’s homes to a decent standard by bringing everyone involved – housing managers, contractors and, crucially, the householders themselves – together to work out how best it could be done. McDonnell and her team’s success is a living rebuke to the ‘business as usual’ approach of much of mainstream construction. And at a time when both political parties are parroting the ‘green skills’ mantra, they could use some womanly “outside the government creativity” for the future.
Learning a trade
A boss tells his new employee, “I’ll give you 15 bucks an hour starting today and in three months…I’ll raise it to 18bucks an hour. So when would you like to start?”
“In 3 months,” the employee replies.
The new employee stood before the paper shredder looking confused.
“Need some help?” a secretary asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “How does this thing work?”
“Simple,” she said, taking the fat report from his hand and feeding it into the shredder.
“Thanks, but where do the copies come out?”
Boss: We are very keen on cleanliness. Did you wipe your shoes on the mat as you came in?New Employee: Yes sir.
Boss: We are also very keen on truthfulness. There is no mat.
My company just conducted a one-day motivation training for all the junior employees. It was a roaring success. All the employees are now really motivated to find new jobs.
August 7th Birthdays
1962 – Maggie Wheeler, 1975 – Charlize Theron, 1983 – Abbie Cornish
1966 – Jimmy Wales, 1992 – Mike Trout, 1997 – Brett Gray, 1960 – David Duchovny