CREATE’S catering is set to do so much more than just treating the tastebuds.
On the surface, it’s a food business providing delicious meals. But at its heart, Create is changing lives and giving hope to those with a once bleak future.
From its newly-opened office and kitchen in Lombard Street, Sunderland, Create has taken on the first in a series of 10 trainees embarking on a life-changing 12-week course.
They’ve all struggled to find work and live in city hostels and shelters, but this course is set to make them dab hands in the kitchen, giving them skills for a career.
It is a social enterprise venture that has proved successful elsewhere in the north, with 98 per cent of people who stay on the course going on to employment.
The difficult part, however, can sometimes be making the trainees believe in themselves enough to stay the course.
“Many are from hostels,” said Lindsay Newby, Create’s North East business centre manager.
“That institutionalised environment is tough, there is a lot of peer pressure and we are suddenly taking them out of that.
“Some are from drugs, drink or abusive backgrounds and it doesn’t take much to knock them, but we are about creating stability for them.”
In January, Create became only the second company to be awarded a Big Society Award by Prime Minister David Cameron.
It has impressed so much that councils, such as Sunderland, asked the company to go to their cities. The Sunderland arm has opened after volunteers from Price Waterhouse Coopers helped to renovate disused units.
This week the first batch of trainees took the first steps on the road to a new life.
Lindsay said: “If you look at them from the outside, the trainees look like an unemployable person.
“But these are people with horrendous backgrounds. How could you not end up like that, I would? “It’s about helping them understand that there is something out there for them and something to aspire to.
“We work closely with the city, it’s a real joined-up approach.
“Once the trainees have completed the programme and hopefully gained employment, the hostel can then begin to look at accommodation.
“It’s about creating a sustainable future.”
Trainees can come from referral groups such as the Salvation Army and Wearside Women in Need.
The only pre-requisite is that they have to have been out of work for 12 weeks and are committed to gaining employment.
Over the course of the 12 weeks, they will work on their CVs in the classroom while learning about food hygiene and health and safety.
Food prepared in the kitchen will provide middle-of-the-range catering in the city, and over the next few weeks Sunderland businesses will be supplied with Create sample boxes, in a bid to drum up clients.
The aim is to provide catering for corporate buffets, featuring food with a conscience.
Lindsay said: “It’s purely incidental that we are a food business.
“What we are teaching the trainees is what’s expected in the work place and what’s not, and what is expected of them as employees.
“We are giving these trainees something to hang their hats on.”
To learn more about Create click here