Former UN Comnmander opens new skills centre in Norwich

Colonel Bob Stewart has a look round the workshops after opening the St Eds Skills Centre, with reap

Colonel Bob Stewart has a look round the workshops after opening the St Eds Skills Centre, with reappointed CEO Lorraine Bliss, and one of the youngsters working there, James Watson. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

A training centre founded to help arm vulnerable young people with the skills they need to enter the world of work has had its new premises opened tonight by a former United Nations commander.

Colonel Bob Stewart, a former British Army officer who became the first British commander of UN forces in Bosnia from September 1992 to May 1993, was invited to open the St Edmunds Society's new purpose-built skills centre in Oak Street, Norwich.

He said: 'To be honest I'm utterly amazed. I'm amazed at the facility, I'm amazed at the attitude of the people here and I'm utterly delighted that Taylor Wimpey and others are actually supporting an organisation that helps kids who haven't had a decent start in life.'

He added: 'That cannot be bettered. It's a real credit to Norwich.'

It marked another key milestone for the charity, which was founded in 1967 to provide temporary housing for men aged 16 or over, and opened a hostel in Earlham Road, Norwich, the following year.


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In 2006 the charity opened a Skills Development Project in Bull Close Road, concentrating on construction and aimed at helping those it works with gain the skills they need to live and get jobs. It has since moved to the much bigger site which was officially unveiled in a ceremony attended by Col Stewart; the High Sheriff of Norfolk, Lady Leicester, who is also a patron of the charity; and Norwich Lord Mayor Keith Driver.

Lorraine Bliss, the society's reappointed chief executive officer who has come out of retirement to finish what she started, said: 'I'm just amazed by the number of people who turned out to support us. It's a fantastic facility and I think it's going to benefit not only Norwich but the county as a whole.'

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Charles Johnson, 20, from Thorpe St Andrew, starts a new job as an apprentice carpenter with Taylor Wimpey on Monday and said it is all down to the help and training he has received at the St Edmunds Society.

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