The Skills Centre Director John White awarded MBE

Posted Tue, 26th January 2021 Author Adam Sheppard Read Time 3 mins

The Skills Centre’s Director John White has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire) for his determination to empower a community through his tireless work to help find people work and upskill people in his community.

John manages the Southwark Construction Skills Centre, which has provided training to 8,000 people since it was founded more than three years ago – including ex-offenders, ex-military and ex-gang members. The Skills Centre works closely with employers and residents to provide employees with the skills required by businesses. The training includes learning new skills as well as upskilling.

John, who is based at Lendlease’s Elephant Park site in Southwark, is passionate about inspiring and engaging young people to want to work in the construction sector. John runs a range of school engagement activities to highlight the range of opportunities available and to increase employment and training opportunities in the construction sector for local people by using The Skills Centre as a complete service for on and off-site training.

John, who found out about his MBE honour when he was gardening, 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 - 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.

“Apprentices are also really important, and I’m keen they go into the community to work rather than just into our yard or classroom.”

There have been many and varied projects for apprentices to get involved, including Southwark Peace Gardens in Walworth Road, dedicated to reducing knife crime and providing support to community members affected by it.

John works hard within the community of Southwark, trying to help people get into the work environment by speaking to employers to find out what skills they require and then running suitable training courses. He recently reached out to the local Latin American community with more than 200 people turning up to his presentation.

In 2020, the Centre will be expanding to Brixton and to Stratford in partnership with Transport for London.

John will be honoured at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace later this year – but he admits the news is taking a while to sink in.

“It was a surprise, very shocking,” he said. “I was digging the garden and my wife Sam 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.”

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