Businesses and charities bridge the skills gap…

Russell Sandbach with Candy Squire-WattBRADFORD businesses are giving West Yorkshire’s charities a helping hand by offering their skills and experience for free, through a pioneering scheme.

Companies, such as housing association Incommunities and insurance brokers TL Dallas Group, are among those who have given their backing to a county-wide project, hailed by the Government as a model of best practice.

SkillsBridge, which operates from the Open Field office at City House, Cheapside, Bradford, matches volunteers from both private and public sector companies with charities and social enterprises in need of expert guidance and advice.

And just three months after its launch, SkillsBridge has already secured the support of 10 private sector experts who are now actively providing free help and expertise to charities, such as Keighley and Ilkley Community and Voluntary Association (KIVCA).

KIVCA, a resource for a variety of community-based projects in the area, approached SkillsBridge after identifying a need to maximise the income generation of its base at Central Hall, Alice Street, Keighley.

“The hall is a really fantastic community venue as it offers considerable flexibility in terms of use,” said KIVCA chief executive Russell Sandbach. “However, we felt it was underperforming and wanted advice from an expert on how we could make it more commercially viable.”

SkillsBridge put Russell in touch with marketing expert Mark Pittaway, CEO of Waterhill Research Ltd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, who now spends one day a week passing on some of his 20 years’ of experience free of charge.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying my involvement with KIVCA,” said Mark. “Sometimes, when you’re busy working within an organisation you can’t see the wood for the trees and an outside opinion – a fresh pair of eyes – can be a great help.

“If my input can help, then I’m more than happy to provide it.”

Like Mark, chartered accountant Roland Clark, a director at Bradford-based Clough and Co, has signed up to offer his services to SkillsBridge.

“I think it’s an excellent concept,” he said, “as there is an urgent need for greater links between the third sector and private and public sector businesses.”

“The service we provide sounds like common sense but there was no-one providing it,” said Skills-Bridge project officer Candy Squire-Watt, “and the support we’ve had from businesses in the area has been immediate and incredibly positive.”

“We knew that if we could get the right people on board this initiative could have real and lasting benefit across the region.”

SkillsBridge is now calling on more companies, from small consultancies to PLCs to get involved with the project, either by offering financial support or by volunteering to share their skills.

Charities and voluntary organisations keen to access free mentoring are also invited to get in touch, by calling Candy on 01274 254705, emailing, or visiting .

Written on 3rd February 2015Lillie Geistdorfer. Published in Members News