| Categories: VGC Group
Joe and Seb from Beam

Joe is working in his first job since 2003, for VGC Group on the Northern Line extension.

For over a decade, Joe was homeless. He slept in hostels and on friends’ sofas – and sometimes on the streets. Until last year when he underwent treatment, Joe also struggled with addictions.

In August 2017 he joined Beam, a new social impact business funded by the Mayor of London and Nesta. Beam is the world’s first crowdfunding platform to help homeless people train up and get into work by raising funds for employment training.

With an online campaign, he raised £1,132 from 19 supporters in just five days for slinger signaller training. A slinger signaller is a skilled and respected career in the construction industry, and works alongside crane operators to ensure on-site safety.

He went on to pass the course with an average of 95%, giving him a professional qualification. With Beam’s continued help, Joe has secured a job and will continue on his chosen career path.

“Now I am in work everything is falling into place and I really am earning a living. No one was there to give me this opportunity, there was no funding or training. If it weren’t for Beam I wouldn’t be here right now at this point in my life.”

Getting back into work

Joe had previously worked in construction, but like many Beam members, his career was derailed by addiction and homelessness. To get back into work, Joe needed qualifications that he was unable to afford.

“Beam empowers people who’ve experienced homelessness to train up and get into work by removing the specific financial barriers that they face. Beam’s model allows our “members” to make the best use of their amazing talents and major, positive contributions to society,” said Alex Stephany, Beam CEO.

“Beam uses technology to make it safe and easy to help a homeless person for the long-term by making a smart and  positive investment in their future. Each member’s supporters can see exactly where their money goes – and the impact they’re having – via updates from the member.”

Joe is now working for VGC as a slinger signaller on the Northern Line extension at Battersea.

VGC Group operations manager Chris O’Sullivan started his own career with VGC as a crane controller on the East London line project in 2008. Chris said: “Joe is working with tower and crawler cranes at the site in Battersea where our client Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke (FLO) joint venture is building the new Battersea Power Station tube station as part of the Northern line extension. His job as a slinger signaller involves making sure materials and equipment are moved safely, and he is doing very well.”

Ciara Pryce, VGC Group’s director of group services, added: “We believe strongly that local people should benefit from major projects, and our partnership with BuildLondon has led to a number of good candidates from the communities where we work.

“We hope this will be the start of an excellent long-term career for Joe. By encouraging people to learn and improve their skills, and promoting internally, we support succession planning for our future business. We are committed to equal opportunities in every aspect of what we do, and we help people from under-represented groups to find employment and to develop.”


VGC is working with BuildLondon, partnered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), on a number of construction projects. “Given the innovative approach to crowd fund qualifications for jobs currently under demand in the construction industry, DWP hopes to continue to support BEAM members, through our partnership with BuildLondon, into opportunities on projects like Tideway, Transport for London, Heathrow, Crossrail and beyond,” said Tony Hyland, senior national account manager, Department for Work and Pensions National Employer and Partnership Team.

“We’re delighted to have played a part in supporting Joe into work with one of our contractor partners, VGC Group,” said Chris Dransfield, programme director, BuildLondon. “Our aim at BuildLondon, in partnership with the DWP and construction companies, is to improve the visibility of and access to, jobs and training opportunities on major construction projects across the capital. Collaboration with innovative organisations such as BEAM is critical to improving the success of what we do. We look forward to supporting more BEAM members into careers in the construction sector.”

How Beam works

Joe worked with a Beam “member manager” to put together an online campaign. This included an exact budget, from £960 for training, to £12 for a hard hat and even travel expenses.

The public could then read Joe’s story online and donate to his campaign. Supporters could follow Joe’s progress through regular updates during training and job searching.

On the Beam platform, supporters can choose to donate to a single member or to split the donation equally between every live campaign. Supporters can leave messages of encouragement, providing members not only with the financial backing but the motivation, self-belief and confidence to progress.

Beam partners with the UK’s leading homelessness charities including Thames Reach, Kairos and The House of St Barnabas.

“I started working with Joe when he was still in Thames Reach supported housing. We set about updating his CV while I thought about ways we could find money to fund the license. Beam were a perfect fit,” said Katherine Cowling, employment support worker, Thames Reach.

As well as taking referrals from charities, Beam conducts risks assessments on each member and takes at least two references, so that the public can give confidently to their campaigns.

“Beam offers a wonderful opportunity for the public to engage directly with people supported by Thames Reach in a personal way, practically helping them in their progression away from homelessness,” said Jeremy Swain, CEO, Thames Reach.

Since launching in September, Beam has funded 14 campaigns, raising £43,000 for a range of industry-recognised qualifications, from electrician’s training to teaching assistant and accountancy courses.

Joe, pictured above with Seb, his Beam member manager, is not the only Beam member to have found construction work. Beam member Pat, who raised £1,005 from 30 supporters for construction site manager training, has recently become employed as a site supervisor on London’s Crossrail.

With over 300,000 people currently homeless in the UK, there are thousands more individuals like Joe and Pat, who, through employment training, can get back on their feet and make important contributions to society.

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