LEDCOM will redouble its efforts in Ballymoney to create jobs in the social economy sector in 2015, its chairman Henry Fletcher said this week.
With government cuts threatening public sector jobs, Mr Fletcher says the social enterprise sector has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs and help boost Northern Ireland’s economic recovery.
Speaking at LEDCOM’s Annual General Meeting, reviewing LEDCOM’s performance over the past year, Mr Fletcher said the company would continue to be at the forefront of promoting and developing the burgeoning social economy sector.
He said: “The Departments of Enterprise Trade and Investment and Social Development have both identified social enterprises as having considerable potential for growth. We will be stepping up our activities to support more and more business start-ups in the year ahead.”
LEDCOM, which is itself a leading social enterprise, offers a full range of services providing social enterprise development at all levels. These include the Social Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP) and the Northern Social Enterprise Hub based at the Ecos Centre in Ballymena.
It delivers the SEP in Ballymoney, Antrim, Carrickfergus, Larne, Newtownabbey and Ballymena. During the year, LEDCOM worked with 14 community organisations in those areas to set up nine new social economy businesses, creating 37 potential new jobs.
The Hub has made an encouraging start and has 28 clients signed up for mentoring, training best practice visits and other support. Most of the clients engaged are new to LEDCOM. As well as mentoring, the facility also offers free office and retail space to new social enterprises who wish to test trade. The council areas that the hub covers consist of Ballymoney, Antrim, Cookstown, Magherafelt, Coleraine, Moyle, Ballymena, Newtownabbey, Larne and Carrickfergus.
The company has recently added two new social enterprises to its group of companies. These are Heritage Experience, a cultural heritage tourism company developed in association with the Ulster Historical Foundation and Ulster Scots Community Network, and Business Led NI, which offers a full range of consultancy services including Programme Management, Economic Development and Business Consultancy.
LEDCOM Chief Executive Officer Ken Nelson said LEDCOM has developed a host of initiatives aimed at stimulating the social economy sector and wider economy.
“In an era of huge public sector budgetary pressures, social enterprises can provide value for money solutions to deliver public services. LEDCOM has been doing this successfully for local government for over 20 years. With the urgent need to rebalance the economy between the public and private sectors, the social economy is a proven way of helping to achieve that”, said Ken Nelson.
He added: “This year we opened the new Northern Zone Social Enterprise Hub at the ECOS Centre in Ballymena. This project provides support for groups from the community and voluntary sector who wish to explore and develop a social enterprise as a means of securing income. “
The company also developed and managed Advance – an innovative new pilot programme aimed at young people aged 18-26 not in employment, education or training.
The Advance Programme, funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland, placed 40 young people in paid temporary posts with social enterprises across Northern Ireland and had a 91 per cent success rate in creating full time jobs at the end of the programme.
LEDCOM on behalf of Northern Regional College (NRC) successfully delivered year one of the DEL funded Learner Access and Engagement (LAE) programme in Larne, Carrickfergus, Rural Newtownabbey and Moyle. The LAE Programme is directed at those ‘hard-to-reach’ adults and young people who are economically inactive, disengaged from the labour market, and with few or no qualifications, to encourage them to undertake suitable further education to help prepare them for employment or further learning.
Through the year LEDCOM mentored and assisted a wide range of businesses and social enterprises helping them to achieve self-employment, employment, and employability development. This includes:
91 business start-ups assisted by LEDCOM through advice, information, training, mentoring and other support, with around 95 jobs promoted
Five social enterprise start-ups assisted through advice, information, training, mentoring and other support, with around 25 jobs promoted
25 existing businesses and social enterprises assisted with advice, information, training, mentoring and other support
516 individuals assisted to improve their skills and employability through training, mentoring and other support
LEDCOM has continued to have a positive impact on economic development in Larne and across County Antrim and Northern Ireland, said Ken Nelson.