Forth Valley Community Focus CIC reduces poverty in Stirlingshire by providing tailored employability training & support services designed to improve people’s life chances and choices. Its founder, Annette Tonner, was a student at SSE Scotland’s Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme 2016-17
“I grew up on a council estate and didn’t have the best education,” recalls Annette Tonner. “I had my first kid at 17, and was married by 21.”
Even so, Annette went on to forge a successful career working for several training agencies. But she grew disillusioned with the process: “I didn’t think they had the best interests of the candidates at heart,” she says.
Determined to improve the training and employment opportunities in her community, she set about launching the Forth Valley Community Focus as a charity in 2015. It reduces poverty and unemployment, by providing tailored employability and training support services designed to improve people’s life chances and choices.
Annette says: “I found out about SSE Scotland and the Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme, and was super-nervous about getting in. I was unfamiliar with the structures of social enterprise and needed a mentor.”
What she got, however, was a lot more than a mentor. “The programme changed absolutely everything, it was like somebody gave me the permission!” – says the mother-of-four. She has since established Forth Valley Community Focus as a community interest company (CIC), a legal structure for social enterprise.
“The programme changed absolutely everything, it was like somebody gave me the permission!”
“I learnt so much from the programme: the abundance of business knowledge, the financial knowledge – we wouldn’t be sitting in this building today if it weren’t for SSE.”
As a result, Forth Valley Community Focus now employs three people and provides four services: work experience placements, training certification, CSCS card training and industry specific training – mainly focussed towards hospitably, construction and telecoms.
“We’re now recognised by the council and we work in partnership with local agencies, while always reinvesting revenue back into community projects,” explains Annette.
We’re now recognised by the council and we work in partnership with local agencies
And there are even bigger plans for 2018. Thanks to a partnership with Balfour Beatty, Forth Valley is opening a new construction academy and offering building site work experience – while a mobile tool library and food larder delivery service are also on the horizon.
“It’s just about doing good in my community,” adds Annette. “That’s what counts!”