The Skill Mill

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The Skill Mill
Social enterprise
IndustryEnvironmental Services
Founded2013; 10 years ago (2013) in North East of England
Key people
  • David Parks (Managing Director)
  • Paul Brownlee (Director)
  • Linzie Pentleton (Director)
  • Dr.Katri-Liis Lepik (Director)
  • Andy Peaden (Director)

The Skill Mill is an international social enterprise that provides employment and education opportunities for young ex–offenders aged 16-18. It was founded in 2013 in the North East of England after the Environment Agency reached out to the Newcastle Youth Offending Team about cleaning up the local waterways.[1] The Skill Mill offers high quality and good value water-based and horticulture services. They began trading from February 2014. There are currently three sites based in the UK: Newcastle, Durham and Leeds and one site in Tallinn, Estonia.[2]

In 2020, The Skill Mill are set to open five new sites across the UK; In Croydon, Birmingham, Nottingham, Rochdale/Bury and Surrey.[2] They are funded through a social impact bond from the Government’s Life Chances Fund.[3]

During the Covid-19 Pandemic The Skill Mill began producing reusable cloth face masks in efforts to support social enterprises and the work of the organisation.


The Skill Mill is a certified social enterprise and member of Social Enterprise UK. They provide vulnerable young people with a background in crime the skills to work in the field of environmental maintenance.[4] The project aims to provide the local communities with social and environmental benefits, whilst helping the participants to gain a qualification and valuable work skills.

Individuals must volunteer to part take in this project, once chosen they undertake six months paid employment approximately 30 hours per week.[5] Once they complete the Skill Mill project they are considered for further employment with the partner organisations.[6]

The Skill Mill is a self-sufficient organisation, sustained from commercial contracts with Local Authorities, Regional Environment Agency and Private sector subcontracting arrangements. They have partnerships with several private and public sector organisations such as Northumbrian Water, Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Durham Woodland Revival, CEG, Balfour Beatty, Esh Group, Newcastle City Council and Sirius Minerals.[5]

The Skill Mill project has been successful, the director and founder of The Skill Mill David Parks says “It works because young people really appreciate the opportunity and enjoy the fact it is meaningful work and they are getting paid up to £170 a week”.[6]

The Skill Mill's initiative is able to measure their impact on society through social profitability [7] and the state of the environment. The Skill Mill's work plays a role in creating a cleaner and safer environment for local areas, whilst reducing crime and re-offending rates. David Parks said "Everybody wins – the participants who connect to the natural environment, the community because jobs which need doing get done, and it reduces re-offending,”.[7]

The Skill Mill have also partnered with universities and have taken part in research studies on youth and crime prevention.

The Impact of The Skill Mill

The Skill Mill provides young people paid employment, practical work experience, a qualification and a potential job opportunity. The project aids in the reduction of re-offending, which increases the safety of the community. [8]

One of the young people who worked with The Skill Mill said "They gave me a massive chance to prove that I'm not a criminal and I can work and I'm willing to work."[9].

In February 2020, The Skill Mill have been trading for 6 years. 'We have employed 127 young people. Just 15 of those have been re-convicted. This means our re-conviction rate is 12%, compared with the national average of 67%.'[10] The founder and director of The Skill Mill, David Parks states "The young people talk about being in touch with nature. They say it is something they get a lot out of and many have reported improved relationships with their families. But the most important thing is that they stop offending.”.[1]

The Skill Mill teams primarily work outdoors. Spending time in nature offers additional benefits to participants by improving their life chances, and transforming their individual futures. [11] Being in nature reduces anxiety, aggression and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, but it also improves pain control, and boosts happiness and the immune system.[11]

The benefits don't stop at the participants of The Skill Mill project, the local communities benefit too. The work undertaken by the Skill Mill teams helps local communities in terms of reducing flood risk, manages their open spaces, improve the accessible, cleaning up, and tidying sites in which they live.[12]

The project hopes to provide a link back into the participants local communities, who otherwise might have been see as an outsider due to their criminal behaviour.[12]

World Clean Up Day

In 2019, The Skill Mill took the lead for the World Clean Up Day UK, in collaboration with Northumbria University. There were many participants who created an event from individuals and community groups to local authorities and large corporations. Litter and waste were picked up from the beaches, rivers, forests, and streets in attempt to clean up the world.[13]

In 2020, The Skill Mill will lead World Clean Up Day UK again on the 19th September 2020. [13]



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Boosting the work skills of prolific young offenders" (PDF). Children and Young People Now. p. 38.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 "United Kingdom | The Skill Mill Ltd". theskillmill. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  4. Ltd, Cloud Payments (2019-02-24). "Social Enterprise The Skill Mill is set to scale-up »". Social Enterprise The Skill Mill is set to scale-up » Social Enterprise UK. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Long, Michael A.; Oswald, Rebecca; Stretesky, Paul B.; Soppitt, Sarah (2019-06-01). "Do Flood Mitigation and Natural Habitat Protection Employment Reduce Youth Offending?". European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. 25 (2): 135–151. doi:10.1007/s10610-017-9365-y. ISSN 1572-9869.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Make mine a double! Innovative eco project wins two national awards". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Henderson, Tony. "Newcastle young offenders pay back society with environmental graft - The Journal". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  8. "Keep Britain Tidy #GBSpringClean". theskillmill. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  9. "Willing to Work - A Digital Story". Curiosity Creative. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  10. "The Skill Mill's 6th Birthday". theskillmill. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Benefits of Nature". theskillmill. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Skill Mill - Its more than just litter and water management - A Digital Story". Curiosity Creative. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "World Cleanup Day 2019". theskillmill. Retrieved 2020-06-22.

External Links

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