Set up as a charity by chief executive and industry expert Greg Mangham three years ago, its aim is to help the homeless, prison leavers and fragile services veterans get their lives back on track with the help of stable, long-term employment.
Working with firms and other charities, jobs for 375 have been found in top venues including The Wolseley in Mayfair and The Ivy Collection restaurant group.
That success is now driving OAPA’s ambition to place 9,750 people into work over the next five years, contributing a potential £468million boost to the economy through state support savings, national insurance contributions and disposable income spend.
Currently it operates in England, with expansion into Scotland next. The industry and campaigns provide its income – £600,000 last year.
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The project’s catalyst for Mangham and his wife Gill was the sight of rough sleepers lining London’s Strand and the shameful waste that represented while the hospitality industry struggled with thousands of vacancies.
Could there be a better way? Absolutely, they decided, and from that they developed OAPA, whose super pragmatic model is the foundation of its success.
The core is its free jobs board. A coded and monitored platform with a secure log-in, it enables candidates to apply for roles and to be assessed fairly.
A year-long wrap-around service offers financial and emotional support, keeping everyone in the loop, while relationship managers back this in the three sectors OAPA works with: custodial, charities and employers. A learning and development coach is also on hand to mentor candidates.
“We’re a conduit for the whole industry, bringing the homeless, custodial and veterans sectors together,” says Mangham.
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“Employers see us as worthwhile and if we can place someone it helps ease pressures on a charity.
“Our candidates start from zero and our support ensures they don’t fall by the wayside. We have one man only able to use one arm because of a stroke who is now working in a hotel in Park Lane.”
Average length of service is 44 weeks, with 60 per cent of members staying in jobs for more than a year.
Mangham’s next big ambition is to bring in £1.5m of annual funding so OAPA can open a chain of café-based training academies in cities.
“These would be run by our members, who will receive a share of the profits,” he explains.
“We’ve no fat cat salaries here, we just do good in a structured, commercial way.”
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