Millionaire transforming lives of young offenders in ‘Property Ladder’ scheme

Millionaire transforming lives of young offenders in ‘Property Ladder’ scheme

Stephen Naysmith, Herald Scotland


A millionaire construction boss has come out of retirement to recruit some of Scotland’s most unemployable youngsters in a bold “Property Ladder”-style scheme.


In the manner of the TV show, which follows members of the public as they attempt to make their fortunes by upgrading homes and selling them on, Kibble Construction is using the same model to provide jobs for young people.


Most of the staff of the social enterprise are young offenders or have grown up in care and all have been shut out of the job market.


They have little or no experience of construction work, but under the supervision of David Hannah, the retired co-founder of Scottish house building firm Ossian Construction, the company has already refurbished a derelict Paisley bungalow and is about to put it on the market.


The proceeds of this and any other sales will be sunk back into the social business, enabling the purchase of new properties and allowing 63-year-old Hannah to extend the contracts of some of his workforce of more than a dozen 18 to 24-year-old temporary workers.


They work alongside time-served tradesmen and receive building industry-standard wages plus travelling expenses for an initial six months.


Hannah became involved after being invited on to the board of the Paisley- based Kibble Education and Care Centre, a specialist care facility for young people at risk. Kibble Construction is part of Kibble Plus – the job training wing of the organisation.


Hannah said the new project "has to be a proper enterprise, run as a professional commercial business selling houses on the open market and competing with everybody else".


He said: "I’ve spent 40 years of my life doing this job and built 600 properties in Renfrewshire alone. If we can produce a margin, that allows me to reinvest and employ more young people.


"We had a job fair and out of 100 candidates we picked the 10 that needed most help. Some had served jail terms and they had no building trade experience. The first four were ex-prisoners and to start with it was very slow. There were teething problems, but none I’d not had in my working life before.


"They were just more concentrated. The work ethic was the main one – it was about attention to detail and the discipline of having to turn up at work on time."


One of the first recruits, in May this year, was Stuart Bain, now 23. He had a number of convictions, mostly for drink-related incidents of violence or vandalism.


"I’d tried to get construction work," he said, "but couldn’t because of my criminal record. Even though it was a good few years ago, I was still paying the penalty. There are not a lot of opportunities out there for boys like me."


However, over his six-month contract Bain turned his hand to all the tasks involved in property redevelopment, helping to rip out the old fittings, construct new structural walls and put in stairs to the bungalow’s attic, which was transformed with three new bedrooms and a bathroom.


He emerged with certificated construction skills and a forklift driver’s licence and is currently in the running for two different jobs as a result of his experience.


"David [Hannah] did the interviews and then came down regularly to make sure we were progressing. I can’t thank Kibble enough," he said.


Hannah says Bain has become a great worker and timekeeper after a difficult start. "In his first two months he couldn’t string five days together in a row. He was coming in on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. There’s been a massive change in that boy," he added. "Another boy had 41 previous convictions – he was astonished to be interviewed, let alone given a start. Other employers are not in the business of taking risks on someone like that, but you can’t blame them for it.


"Kibble’s attitude is different – they say ‘we are here to support you and will continue to support you through the difficulties’."


He said he was excited by the challenge and, while the first bungalow will deliver only a minimal profit, he is confident about the firm’s next project. "We are converting a long-time empty care hostel in Linwood into five terraced houses. That will do very well and will make a much, much better margin. Any profit we make will be reinvested.


"By running a successful business, we are helping young people who may not have had the best chances in life make a go of it. And the more money or profit we make, the more young people we can help."


If you build it …


The property cost £130,000 and Kibble has spent £65,000 on it. When it goes on the market in the new year, David Hannah hopes to make a modest margin of around £10,000 on it.


In the longer term, the goal is to make bigger margins as the company irons out teething problems and becomes more effective at supporting employees to learn basic skills and soft skills, such as time-keeping quickly.


Update: The house that Kibble built: jobless lads transform derelict bungalow