We are happy to congratulate a construction-industry stalwart and LSCC member, who has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list.
John White is the manager of Southwark Construction Skills Centre, which has provided training to 8,000 people since it was founded three-and-a-half years ago and joined the Chamber at the same time. The Centre is a partnership between another member, Lendlease, which is sponsoring the Awards and Southwark Council, one of the programme’s organisers.
John received the confidential news of his award a few weeks before the formal announcement on January 1.
“It was a surprise, very shocking,” he said. “I was digging the garden and someone said ‘you have a letter here, do you want to open this, it looks very official’ and I did, then I went back to digging as I couldn’t quite believe it.”
The Skills Centre, located in Lendlease’s Elephant Park, works closely with employers and residents, to provide employees with the skills required by businesses.
John said: “We work within our community, within South London. We are going to employers, finding out what they want. If they are going to employ people, what jobs are on offer? What are the skills they need? What kind of person are they looking for? Then, we run the training.”
“My big push is to make sure the training is open to everyone. There are barriers to training, maybe age, previous qualifications, and we want there to be no barriers. If you are 16 or 74, no matter where you come from in the community, the opportunity is open. If you’re the right person, you’re the right person.”
The centre trains ex-offenders, ex-military and ex-gang members, people referred from the job centre, or those who just drop in – for no appointment is necessary – such as mums with children in tow. The training includes new skills as well as upskilling, for example, of retired members of the construction industry coming back to work in a less labour-intensive, more plant-dominated environment. John also reached out to the local Latin American community in Elephant Park, with more than 200 people turning up to his initial presentation.
Apprentices are also important and John is “keen that they go into the community to work rather than just into our yard or classroom”.
The many and varied projects apprentices have become involved in include Southwark Peace Gardens in Walworth Road, dedicated to reducing knife crime and providing support to community members affected by it.
The Diversity Garden in King James Street and Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe are also beneficiaries.
In 2020, the Centre will be expanding to Brixton and to Stratford in partnership with Transport for London. John will also be attending Buckingham Palace to receive his medal.