Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology visited award-winning social business Monwel Limited recently to find out more about social enterprises and how they can benefit from Welsh Government support in skills, training and technology.
The Deputy Minister had the chance to visit Ebbw Vale based Monwel Signs Ltd where she spoke to Leslie Barr, Managing Director of the company and Stuart Newell, Operations Manager. The Deputy Minister was given a tour of the factory and had a chance to speak to employees who have directly benefited from Welsh Government support since the business set up as an independent enterprise in 2013.
Monwel Limited is the largest manufacturer in Wales of road traffic signs and ancillary products for major road schemes, street names and bespoke signage for infrastructure projects. Monwel have been producing signs for 45 years whilst providing real employment opportunities to people with disabilities and those furthest from the jobs market. The company employs a diverse workforce and provides a working environment that is inclusive, enabling and progressive.
Monwel was run as a semi-commercial operation to provide employment for disabled people from within Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. In September 2013 Monwel become an independent social enterprise. Independence from the local authority has allowed the company to engage more freely, fully and commercially with customers.Monwel now employs 34 full-time people from the local community, 86% of whom manage some form of disability.
In September, Monwel were winners in the Social Enterprise Awards Wales 2014 “One to Watch” category. They then went on to win the same category in London at the UK finalsin November.
The Deputy Minister commented:
“Social enterprises are strengthening the economy, helping tackle poverty and making Wales a better place to live.Monwel Signs is a great example of a social enterprise which is giving back to its local community and making a real difference.”
Leslie Barr commented,
“It is both an honour and privilege to have the deputy minister visit our organisation. At Monwel we believe in our people, who are key to our success. We operate a great training and development programme which all employees are taking advantage of to becoming a fully multi-skilled workforce”
“Everyone at Monwel would like to thank the deputy minister for her visit and support in the social enterprise sector”.
The visit was organised by the Wales Co-operative Centre to demonstrate the benefits that social businesses can offer workforces and local communities. Angela Jones who works on the Welsh Government Communities 2.0 Project attended to highlight the impact that digital support for enterprises can make. Joelle Campbell also attended. She was part of the project team which supported Monwel in its transition from local authority ownership. She commented,
“The Deputy Minister’s visit is an opportunity to highlight how important social businesses are to our communities and the local economy. Welsh Government support for digital improvements, training and support has been instrumental in enabling Monwel to develop as a commercially viable business once it had left the local authority.
“We would like to thank the Deputy Ministerfor her support and help in raising the profile of social enterprises and co-operatives in Wales”.
The Wales Co-operative Centre supports social enterprises and co-operatives and is mainly funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund.The Wales Co-operative Centre has provided support to Monwel through the Social Enterpise Support Project and through the Welsh Governments Communities 2.0 programme.
Wales Co-operative Centre
The Wales Co-operative Centre was set up in 1982 and is Wales’ national body for co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and employee-owned businesses. It applies its co-operative values to strengthening communities and services as well as supporting these social businesses.
The Wales Co-operative Development and Training Centre Limited (trading as the Wales Co-operative Centre) is a registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, number 24287 R