A Durham based charity with almost 80 years of proud history has embraced the challenges of the post COVID lockdown by looking to the future and recruiting key new people into top managerial roles.

Finchale Group based in Belmont’s Mandale Business Park provides life-changing support, training opportunities and routes to employment. The charity, which started life in 1943 as a rehabilitation and resettlement centre for disabled wartime servicemen continues to help ex-military personnel and veterans but has expanded and diversified to deliver high-quality employability and vocational training programmes for learners of all ages.

It’s been a busy period of change and adapting for the charity following their move from a former hotel building in Pity Me to their new location in 2019. Richard Annand VC House is newly built and contains accessible classrooms, meeting rooms and nearby they have a purpose-built construction skills academy. The move was phase one of a strategy to meet and deliver the demands of modern learning and now stage two has seen the arrival of new board members with specific skills such as finance, HR and entrepreneurial experience. The charity has also appointed a new Interim CEO and Chair of Trustees.

Neil Johnson takes the reins as interim CEO with a proven track record in people services sectors such as employability, educational skills and adult social care. He has previously held senior roles within these sectors including Ingeus UK, Coquet Trust and the Shaw Trust.

“I’m delighted to be able to join this forward-looking team here at The Finchale Group. My immediate aim is to couple robust governance with people development to deliver excellent results for our Learners, Armed Forces Community and our Commissioners. It’s important to invest in our people and create the right culture where our people can thrive and that’s why we have brought in our new Trustees and Chair,” said Neil.

The new Chair is Jason Knights, Managing Director of Blue Kangaroo Design, a Gateshead based design agency that works specifically with entertainment character licensing and toy industry clients all over the world including Walt Disney, Universal Studios, Mattel, Tomy,and Warner Bros. His business acumen won him a Board of Trade Award and he was made a Northern Powerhouse Export Champion.

“I’m ex-forces myself and I know that The Finchale Group’s history is steeped in helping veterans to adapt and succeed in civilian life. I’m keen to use my contacts to further that relationship but also to support other learning programmes such as helping young people become job-ready – particularly those with barriers to learning. We’re very lucky to have a great team here and facilities second to none including our new construction academy from where we will launch our apprenticeship scheme later this year,” he said.

Neil agreed: “Our strength is our people. Many of them have been through our programmes as ex-forces personnel and we’ve made a demonstrable difference in their lives. Their passion is tangible, and they are determined to help other people to succeed as they have done. I am very proud to lead the team at Finchale and together with our new Board we have an exciting future ahead, delivering our mission in making a positive difference in people’s lives.” 

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