KELP wants to help

KELP, The Kotuku Environmental Labourer Project, wants to help young unemployed Londoners find work in the construction and waste management industries.

It is about to start selecting the next eight young people (of either sex) for its next training course starting on March 10.

The training, as an Environmental Labourer, equips them with basic health and safety and environmental skills and qualifications.

After training they are matched with full-time work opportunities on the first rung of the construction and waste management industries’ employment ladder.

The project provides, in one place, a comprehensive package encompassing initial selection, bespoke training, qualification attainment and employment placement.

But, KELP also provides continual support and personal encouragement. According to Andrew Pears, who thought up the project and is now a prime mover, there is a fair element of social work to the job as well.

The project seems to be a mixture of tough love and support, often something the candidate did not get with school or, subsequently, with parents or social worker.

For instance, says Andrew, if one of the candidates turns up late for the initial interview, he or she will not be considered for placement.

Or if he is five minutes late during the training schedule, again, he will be dropped from the training scheme.

“It is a case of getting the applicants out of bed and into the rhythm of employment.”

KELP takes most candidates from Jobcentre Plus,  and sometimes from youngsters who are mates of previous KELPs. They are always looking for suggestions and recommendations from other organisations, and have also taken people from Spear, School of Hard Knocks, and Women in Construction.

Andrew says that since he started the project in July 2012 some 42 youngsters have found jobs in construction and waste management and 32 are still employed, five of them in waste management.

He says the emphasis is on environmentally-aware training because this give the trainees an edge over the usual labouring job applicants.

He developed the idea under the previous government’s Future Jobs scheme where trainees were not allowed to take jobs from those who were employed. Hence the emphasis on environmental training which most construction workers do not understand.

So what is an environmental labourer?

He (or she, he emphasises) is an environmentally aware manual worker trained in basic waste management. He will be qualified to operative level health and safety with a CSCS Green Card and willing and able to undertake general labouring and manual duties.

In addition, says Andrew, (and this is what gives him the edge) he will be able to segregate a mixed load of waste into types; describe waste with a European Waste Code; fill in a waste transfer note; recognise WEEE and know what to do with it; recognise Hazardous Waste and know what to do with it; understand the waste hierarchy and principles of waste minimisation and recycling; and actively manage waste to encourage re-use.

Candidates undertake a two-week environmental boot camp during which they: acclimatise to the pattern of a full working day; visit construction sites; receive health and safety training and take the Construction Skills Operative level test; visit a materials recycling facility; learn about sustainability; learn about waste management and achieve Kotuku’s certificate of environmental awareness.

KELP then finds the youngsters a full time job with selected employers on a fixed term 26-week contract where they are paid at least the national minimum wage.

And during this job the youngster receive regular visits and support from the project.

So what does the employer get?

  • an enthusiastic and qualified employee pre-selected and trained by industry professionals;
  • modest employment cost (less than an agency worker);
  • an opportunity to show the social awareness and commitment of a business to helping the community;
  • acquire a focus for addressing and managing environmental aspects and impacts.

At the end of the fixed term contract, those who are not staying in the job will receive a dossier detailing training, attendance, work experience and references, to show to other employers.

Andrew admits that not all of his trainees make the grade but he is not unhappy at his success rate.

Neither should he be.

Since July 2012 there have been eight programmes during which:

  • 54 young unemployed completed the training;
  • 49 achieved their CSCS Green Card;
  • 45 achieved Kotuku’s Certificate of Environment Awareness; and
  • 42 were placed in full time employment.

For many it was a real opportunity to escape the benefits trap and start developing a sustainable working life.

“Many of the trainees were fathers or mothers and the thought of their off-springs growing up with an unemployed father or mother often spurred them on to make the grade,” suggests Andrew.

The project is particularly pleased to have offered a fresh start to those who have paid the price of some bad decisions in the past.

“Everyone is treated the same on the course. In fact, we don’t really want to know their past because we are more interested in their futures. But we have to know if a violent temper lead to a criminal sentence so we understand what we are dealing with,” says Andrew.

Kotuku CIC developed this project using its construction and environmental training knowledge. Grant support was obtained from The Big Lottery Fund.

The next course begins on March 10 and KELP trainees will be available to start work in late March.

For further information about the project, please contact Andrew Pears on 07958 948 467 or email

If you know anyone interested in becoming an Environmental Labourer, please contact Patrick Smith on 07767 113 133 or email

“Those who graduate receive a KELP logo t-shirt. Patrick and I are amazed how proud they are to receive this badge of accomplishment”, says Andrew, “but those who complete have truly deserved it”.


Charity Number: 1118616 | Company Number: 4323551