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Catering for careers

320. Mike McGrother

A community champion from Stockton-on-Tees who has helped over 100 young people who are not in education or employment develop skills to get back into work.

Mike McGrother, 46, founded social enterprise Matty’s Bistro alongside local chef Matty Brown. The programme takes young people who are not in education, training or employment and trains them to become chefs and waiting staff. Over the course of 12 weeks, the young people attend weekly classes that culminate in a pop up Matty’s Bistro showcase event where local catering businesses are invited. Sixty percent of the young people who attend the scheme progress from these courses into apprenticeships or further employment.

Mike has been involved in several projects in Stockton-on-Tees that help young people, underpinned by a passionate belief that arts and culture can help to get people back into work or training. Mike works closely with local employers and trainers to make sure the people he connects with on his projects continue to progress to the next level, and has helped over 500 young people in the last 10 years.

Mike is also a community champion, organiser and advocate and was recently the recipient of the Extraordinary Achievement Award at the Stockton Volunteer Awards. This year alone he launched ‘One Red Sunflower’ that encouraged more than 500 people to walk a combined distance of more than 500 miles to raise awareness about mental health, alcohol addiction and substance misuse. He also helped the town come alive when his fantastic team of over 10,000 resident volunteers united the community to take part in the world’s largest game of Chinese Whispers in order to share positive messages about life in the Borough.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Mike has truly dedicated his life to building a stronger, more inclusive society in Stockton-on-Tees.  He has created too many projects to list them all but Matty’s Bistro is one initiative of which he should be particularly proud. Offering young people the opportunity to learn real skills and showcase them to gain permanent employment has directly changed the lives of many of the young people Mike has worked with. He really is a Point of Light in those young people’s lives and I am delighted to recognise him with this award.”

Mike said:

“Stockton-on-Tees is becoming renowned for its community spirit and I am just a small cog within a fantastic mechanism of people and ideas. I do what I do because I love my borough and the people in it. I feel humbled and honoured to receive this award and hope it helps others to step forward to get involved with confidence and positivity so that our community can continue to thrive and flourish for generations to come.”

MP for Stockton South James Wharton said:

“This award is further well deserved recognition of the work Mike has done over many years for our community.  His projects have made an individual difference to so many young people’s lives, but he’s had a wider impact on our whole area too.  Mike is a fantastic ambassador for Stockton and for Teesside – he’s shown that with positive energy and enthusiasm anything is possible, and in everything he does is a perfect example that we all can – and should – make a difference.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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