WORK on a £2 million business and training centre will get under way in May, creating 150 jobs and job placements.
The “employability hub”, which will open in Craigmillar early next year, will help 500 people with mental health problems, disabilities or past convictions get back into work every year.
The centre will house a series of social enterprise companies and is said to be the first of its kind in the UK.
A disused former council industrial estate at Duddingston Yards is to be demolished and replaced by the facility.
Forth Sector, the company behind the plan, will train people who have found it difficult to get into work, then provide them with work experience.
Up to 15 firms are expected to operate from the site, including clothing firm Edinburgh Embroidery Services (EES), handmade soap maker Scottish Soapworks and launderette business St Jude’s Laundry.
Father-of-three William Wardlaw will be among those to benefit from the new facility.
The 51-year-old, who lives in the Forrester area, has suffered from depression for years and found himself jobless when his gardening business folded in September 2008.
With help from Forth Sector, he gained a work experience placement at EES, which he started three months ago.
The grandfather-of-two said: “I started on a half day and now I’m actually on two days a week because it benefits me that much. The EES is in a building on North Peffer Place just now with Scottish Soapworks, so it’s quite crammed. There will be more space for both when they move to the hub.”
The hub will provide training, support and work placements for around 500 people a year who face barriers to employment because of mental ill-health and other conditions.
It follows an investment of £1 million from the Big Lottery Fund and £1m from the Scottish Investment Fund.
Mike Finlayson, chief executive of Forth Sector, one of the UK’s leading social enterprises, said: “The Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Investment Fund have provided this investment to enable Forth Sector to build a unique facility which will help some of the most disadvantaged people in society.”
There will be around 26,000 square feet of business space within the two-storey building.
Jackie Killeen, director of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: “At its heart, the project will support people in their recovery from mental ill-health, increasing their self-confidence and helping them to work towards future employment.”
It had been hoped the hub would be completed this year, but Forth Sector was unable to commit to building until all funding was in place.
Social Investment Scotland’s chief executive, Alastair Davis, said: “This facility will help [Forth Sector] increase the capability of the organisation, resulting in very clear and positive benefits on local communities.”
The city council agreed to sell the one-acre site to Forth Sector last January for £300,000.