Introducing The Message Enterprise Centre
In May 2012, the building you see here will no longer exist.
In its place, you’ll see the Message Enterprise Centre, an ambitious training and business hub. It aims to solve a problem at the heart of our troubled city and nation – endemic youth unemployment.
Within the space of a few months, we expect to have created six brand-new businesses and dozens of new jobs for ex-offenders and at-risk young people like those our Reflex and Eden teams work with every day.
‘This is without doubt our most ambitious and exciting initiative to date,’ says Message CEO Andy Hawthorne. ‘For over twenty years, we’ve been entrepreneurial for the Kingdom, pioneering mission in words and actions. Now it feels like we’ve come full circle – it’s time to harness the power of business again.’
Young people need work
Decades of working in Greater Manchester’s prisons and most disadvantaged communities has shown us there are three main factors in helping ex-offenders and at-risk young people overcome the challenges in their lives.
At the heart is a transforming, living relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing but the gospel has the power to change a life from the inside out.
Growing in that relationship requires people: close friendships, hands-on mentoring and a supportive community willing them to succeed. They need a safe place to live and a family to be a part of.
Then there’s a third factor: they need work. Every young person needs the opportunity to earn a living and gain self-respect and a sense of purpose through a regular job.
Sadly, this is where so often discipleship comes unstuck: many of the young people we work with – ex-offenders and at-risk youngsters from the toughest estates – are virtually unemployable due to a lack of qualifications, training, guidance and support. Without work, many fall back into destructive lifestyles, including crime.
The costs of workless and bored young people are staggering – to the individual and to society as a whole. Estimates suggest every unemployed ex-offender or care-leaver costs the taxpayer at least £50,000 a year, taking into account unemployment benefits, health care, drug or alcohol treatment, policing, prison and probation services. This is a massive waste of resources and potential.
The spirit of enterprise
Reusing and transforming a dilapidated site next door to our HQ in Sharston, the Message Enterprise Centre will offer training and create jobs for dozens of young men and women each year through new businesses set up in partnership with local entrepreneurs.
As these young people find new skills, structure and purpose, lives will be rebuilt, jobs will be created, and new businesses will be birthed.
In partnership with organisations like the Jericho Foundation, Project Caleb and Betel of Britain, we will create new companies designed to train and create jobs in areas such as landscaping and gardening, car maintenance, cleaning, catering, and health and beauty.
Longer term, we aim to connect the Centre’s work with the environmental agenda, helping upgrade our city’s poor housing stock by installing insulation, solar panels and other energy-saving measures.
Every young person engaged in the programme will work with an established mentor, ensuring commitment and that they catch the spirit of enterprise. Our dream is not just to create jobs but to raise entrepreneurs, with the Message Enterprise Centre an incubator for new kingdom businesses across the city.
Turning lives around for good
Mentoring is at the heart of the Centre’s plans, explains Andy Hawthorne: ‘Everybody needs a mentor, someone to come alongside them. We’ve learned that over years on Eden and Reflex. Just as apathy, boredom and addiction are infectious, so are creativity, energy and entrepreneurialism. Multiplication is at the heart of the way we work now – that’s how we get the job done.
‘We’re excited about the potential. Imagine loan sharks who are right now driving round Manchester in a BMW with a baseball bat ripping off the poor, instead blessing the poor by building kingdom businesses.
‘Or think about highly entrepreneurial drug dealers, already used to dealing with millions of pounds of goods, going from being the problem to the answer.
‘What a prize that would be, not just for the Message, but for the whole city and for the Kingdom! Jeremiah 29:7 says, ‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’