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November 08 2011

Mackenzie Thorpe picture auction gives Middlesbrough fund a flying start

First apprenticeship announced for homeless jobseeker by organisers who plan at least 150 and hope for more

Just to follow up on the Northerner's report of Mackenzie Thorpe generously giving one of his paintings for an auction to help the Middlesbrough and Teesside Foundation, recently set up in the town where he was born.

It may not match glitzy London prices, but the celebration ball in Middlesbrough saw the picture, of the town's famous Transporter Bridge, go for £15,250, comfily over organisers' expectations. It was valued at £12,000.

June Kelly of Cool Blue, the Boro-based marketing agency whose founder Tanya Garland is one of the foundation's energisers, says:

We reckon that's pretty good going – and the overall total raised on the evening was £41,000 which isn't bad for a town supposedly on its knees.

Six months after its launch, the Foundation now has £170,000 capital and has decided that it's time to start spending. The first project will focus on apprenticeships – dear to Mackenzie Thorpe's heart. Garland and her co-founder Andy Preston, who gave up hedge fund-managing in London to go into property development on Teesside, explain:

We will pay towards ten placements this year with 50 more in the offing over the next 12 months. The Foundation's ambition is to create 150 such apprenticeships over two years.

The first recipient is 20-year-old Luke Anderson who was once homeless and his situation meant he couldn't find work. Now the apprenticeship will give him what he always wanted – a chance.

Our aim is to help those furthest away from the labour market – whatever the stumbling blocks.

The foundation is teaming up with two staff at Teesside university, Prof Tracy Shildrick and Dr John Blenkinsopp, to monitor the scheme and ensure that it is genuinely working, leads to jobs and does not become a short-lived feelgood affair. Meanwhile, Luke Anderson says:

I just wanted a chance to get a job but my situation brought me up against a brick wall every time.

Homelessness seems to be an obstacle that's extremely hard to get over when you're trying to convince people to give you a place on a training scheme or a job. It's been a total Catch 22. I am loving my apprenticeship and feel extremely lucky that at the end of it I'll be more likely to be seriously considered for a job.

The Foundation, which is drawing on the goodwill of a flourishing diaspora from Midlesbrough all over the world, hits another bullseye when it says of the UK media:

Almost every word written about the town focuses on how miserable it is and how terrible it is to live there.

Not here. Of course the Northerner recognises the unacceptable levels of deprivation on Teesside. But they must be put in context and they seldom are. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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