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Tristan’s story in his own words

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in Case Study, News.

16
Sep

 

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“I’m 27 years old and work on the recycling team with Veolia in Richmond. It’s hard work but I really enjoy being outdoors everyday. By giving me this job Blue Sky has definitely helped to keep me on the straight and narrow. Being in work has improved my family life loads, especially my relationship with my girlfriend because we’ve now got a permanent home together.

 

Blue Sky and Veolia give people a chance to prove themselves, there’s not many companies that actually do that. I’ve learnt a lot and can now see more opportunities for me in the future. Plus, Blue Sky has paid for me to do a counterbalance forklift driving course which I’ve passed so can add that to my CV too”

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Carwyn’s blog- “Heroes”

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in Blog, Carwyn's blog, News, Triathlon.

15
Sep

 

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with their freedom”  – Bob Dylan

August was a month of heroic achievement for Blue Sky – not only did we hit the heady heights of having over 100 ex-offenders on our payroll for the first time ever, but we also took part in the Virgin Active Triathlon. I say ‘we’, it was actually Steve, John, Malcolm and Dave. 4 men, undertaking 3 gruelling pursuits, with 1 objective – raising money for Blue Sky. The members of Team Blue Sky will always deserve to take a bow, will always remember crossing the line, a memory crystallised in the medal that they all keep in a special place.

Also deserving of huge thanks and praise for their generosity are the donors who together got us over the fundraising finishing line – our target of £5,000, which was in fact exceeded. Their money will help us to support an ever increasing number of people through training, housing and help to find on-going employment.

Among this group are people who deserve a special mention – our current and former ex-offender employees, the very beneficiaries of our charity, who put their hands in their pockets and made a donation. Many donated by text (like Luke, pictured), some sent cash, others asked for a donation to be deducted from their wages. What better expression of their status as responsible citizens? Prepared to give something back to Blue Sky and to help others, having themselves been given a helping hand. They too that day were heroes.

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Closed Loop

Carwyn’s blog – Closing the loop on re-offending

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in Blog, Carwyn's blog, News.

8
Sep

Blue Sky is growing, winning an increasing number of commercial contracts to create jobs for ex-offenders. Since 2005 we have now employed over 940 ex-offenders, and currently have over 100 on our payroll. Building on our mainstay work over the years in grounds maintenance, Blue Sky has diversified in recent times to create employment opportunities in catering, distribution, laundry and waste management. This diversification would not be possible without teaming up with commercial companies bold and broad-minded enough to support our mission to reduce re-offending by giving ex-offenders a second chance in life. One such company is Closed Loop, a state-of-the-art plastics recycling plant based in Dagenham. Blue Sky CEO Mick May and I were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the plant by Head of Operations, Gerry Martin.

IMG_1064We meet Gerry in an office with a large window looking onto the plant: a vast, intricate interconnected structure of vats, pipes and conveyor belts. On the sill of the window sit examples of Closed Loop’s bread and butter business: ‘PET’ plastic bottles (the see-through kind used for drinks) and ‘HDPE’ bottles (the opaque kind that contain milk). Gerry, a spirited and hugely enthusiastic Scot, explains the recycling process in outline before taking us round the factory.

Closed Loop buys ‘bales’ of plastic waste from companies such as Viridor and Veolia who collect the stuff from the kerbside outside our homes. This waste (mostly plastic bottles but also containing other items of jaw-dropping variety, gleefully listed by Gerry) is then cleaned and sorted by a series of machines equipped with jets, lasers, magnets, and belts on different levels with gaps designed to filter out right from wrong-sized items. Gerry tells us the plant uses the very latest technology from around the world. It took a while to wade through the owner’s manuals, he quips, but it’s all now working beautifully. IMG_1066However, despite being cutting edge and deeply impressive, the technology can only go so far in sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Human eyes and hands are needed to pick out some of the rogue items that get missed by the uber-machines. This is where Blue Sky employees do their bit as part of Closed Loop’s team, working tough 12-hour shifts. Gerry steps in quickly to demonstrate the task, expertly scanning the fast-moving belt before fishing out then binning a white plastic medicine bottle.

We then leave the cleaning and sorting section of the plant (noisy and dirty for sure, but not half as bad as we were warned to expect) before entering the production zone, where the purring kit is Alpine, gleaming, dairy-clean. IMG_1070In, around and through further vats and pipes finally flows the end product into waiting, heavy-duty bags: small white pellets in the case of HDPE and colourless flakes in the case of PET. This is the stuff that Closed Loop sells to the manufacturers of bottles that eventually then end up in our homes. There’s huge demand for what Closed Loop does. It’s the only plant of its kind in the country producing both kinds of plastic, open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and employing 120 people.

We end the tour in a mini-laboratory that quality-checks the end product, a step not required by the industry but insisted on by Closed Loop. We suggest to Gerry Martin that he must be proud of the plant. “Not really,” says Gerry, suddenly and disarmingly downbeat in his judgement, having shown such enthusiasm on the tour. He goes on to explain, “There’s so much more we still need to do, especially in the sorting and cleaning section.” Gerry is clearly driven by a tireless perfectionism, a passion for getting things right. “We want to establish a different kind of culture here, one that is all about manufacturing, about producing something not just recycling. We want to focus on the quality of what we do and what we produce, not just ‘tonnage’, volume. The recycling industry as a whole is in its infancy in that regard.”

IMG_1073It’s inspirational to see such dedication at work in a largely hidden part of the economy, to witness the pursuit of quality for products that most of us take for granted. Blue Sky, I reflect, has a lot in common with Closed Loop, equally tireless in its pursuit of employment opportunities and quality support for ex-offenders who all too frequently are left on society’s kerbside, jobless on release from prison, out of the loop.

Carwyn Gravell

Blue Sky’s employment model

The jobs created by Blue Sky are ‘entry level’ opportunities (low-skilled, physically demanding at times) suitable for anyone regardless of previous employment or educational attainment. They may not be the most glamorous jobs in the world but they give ex-offenders an invaluable opportunity to prove themselves from day one, with little danger of reinforcing past failure. The jobs provide stability, a starting point, a platform to go on to achieve other things. During their 6-month contract employees receive training and help to find on-going employment. Nearly half go on to find a job elsewhere. Find out more about our support for employees here.

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Working in Gloucester

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in News.

2
Sep

 

We have a new partnership with Gloucester City Homes where we can place ex-offenders into their Estate Services Team. Click on their logo below to read more and hear about Neville, the first Blue Sky employee to be start with them.

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Clement’s Story

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in Blog, Case Study, News.

18
Aug

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Until relatively recently Clement had been in and out of jail for almost 7 years. Now aged 44 he thought ‘enough is enough’ and when he was released in December he said to himself he would not be going back this time. He says:

“It was so tough on release but I was persistent about getting a job. For me, boredom equals crime so I needed to find a structured routine because I like being active”.

Clement was to referred to Blue Sky via the Work Programme shortly after release from prison. He was interviewed for a recycling position in Kingston and he passed with flying colours. He started work as a Recycling Loader within a Veolia team and has received glowing reports since Day 1. Apparently it is busy and such hard work that he’s so tired by the end of the day that even if he wanted to cause trouble he wouldn’t have the energy to!

_DSC21782To make himself more independent Clement saved part of his wages each week to save up for a car. He says that when he had enough to buy one he felt a real sense of achievement. Blue Sky has recently given Clement a £300 housing loan so that he’s able to go home to some stable and safe housing at the end of the working day.

“This scheme has paid off for me and I hope that by staying out of trouble I can make sure that others can be helped too”.

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Success at the London Triathlon

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in Blog, News, Triathlon.

5
Aug

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Huge congratulations to John, Dave, Steve and Malcolm (along with Steve’s mate and honorary Blue Sky employee Toby) who completed the London Triathlon on Sunday 7 months after Steve signed everyone up saying that “it would be a bit of fun”.

It is fair to say that the office thought that TEAM BLUE SKY were ‘all the gear with no idea’ but they certainly proved us wrong by fitting in lots of training around our busiest recruitment period ever to make sure they were fit and ready for the big day.

On Sunday at 1:40pm they dived into the River Thames outside the ExCeL Centre to complete the 1.5km swim before wriggling out of their wetsuits (that was quite a sight) to get on their bikes for 40km and then finishing with a 10km run. It was extremely hot so they certainly deserved the complimentary beer at the finish line, although there were some groans when they realised it was non-alcoholic!

These crazy triathletes (that’s what they refer to themselves as now!) did all this to raise money for Blue Sky and over the weekend they reached, and then exceeded, the £5,000 target they set themselves which is a great achievement. All money raised will contribute to the costs of helping our ex-offender employees with their resettlement needs and with more than 100 of them on our payroll the donations are more important than ever.

So, a big thank you to TEAM BLUE SKY for all their effort and thank you to everyone who made a donation. Until next year…

Please use the arrows to look through the photos. If you would like to enlarge a particular photo then just click on it below.

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Calling all ex-Blue Sky employees

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in News.

21
Jul

Have you worked for Blue Sky previously?

We want to hear from you. What are you up to at the moment? Please complete the form below to let us know.

 

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