Stories behind the Olympic Park statistics

East Ham MP Steve Timms delves into 2012 skills training SEVERAL hundred Newham residents are now working on the Olympic Park. Seven per cent of all those employed there have a permanent address in Newham – much the largest share of all the London borou

East Ham MP Steve Timms delves into 2012 skills training

SEVERAL hundred Newham residents are now working on the Olympic Park.

Seven per cent of all those employed there have a permanent address in Newham - much the largest share of all the London boroughs.

But who are they and how have they got their jobs? Were many of them previously unemployed? You need to get behind the statistics to find out if the hopes we all had for the Olympics giving new chances to local people are being fulfilled.

Just over two years ago I was visited by a couple worried about their 19- year-old son - I will call him Jim.

He had done well at school and wanted an apprenticeship, to become a plumber or electrician. Construction was booming at the time, but all Jim could find was bar work. He was very discouraged.

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I had just learned about a project of the building company Bovis Lend Lease, which had won the contract to build the Athletes' Village for the Olympics. Called BeOnsite, http://www.beonsite.org.uk/, it was a not-for-profit company to recruit unemployed people for the building industry.

I wrote to see if they could offer any opportunities for Jim. They came up trumps, and Jim went to work. Things started well. Jim's older brother was sufficiently impressed to leave his job of five years as a chef to join BeOnsite himself.

I met up with Jim a couple of weeks ago to hear how the past two years had gone. He was not happy about his experience at BeOnsite. He had worked for most of the two years, but he was out of work for some of the time. He was promised training which was not delivered. He eventually concluded construction wasn't for him, and started a university degree course instead.

Did that mean our hopes for the Olympics to give opportunities to local youngsters were being dashed?

I told BeOnsite what I had heard, and they arranged for me to meet a group of five at Stratford, on the site of the athletes' village, last weekend.

One of them was Jim's brother, who had decided to stick with construction.

Another was a man who had been unemployed and living with his sister in Stratford after a divorce.

Two - including the only woman in the group - were living at Anchor House in Canning Town, after spending time sleeping rough.

And one was a young man who had always wanted to work in building, since helping his Dad, a painter and decorator, even before he left school.

Apart from Jim's brother, they had been referred to BeOnsite by Newham Council's Workplace programme.

All were very positive about what had happened to them. Their experience with BeOnsite had given them a chance - in some cases it had turned their lives around. They were appreciative of the opportunity, and felt they could now see a good career ahead.

Different people have different experiences. I remain optimistic that many in our area will get great opportunities from the Olympics they wouldn't have had otherwise.

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