"When I was a young 'un, I was a wrong 'un"
As the first Skill Mill Team leader, Shaun Breeze has been here from the beginning.
Coming from a background in youth reparation, Shaun was frustrated with the limited nature of what was "basically a junior version of community service, picking up litter etc.. but not really work with any meaning or lasting impact for the young people involved in it"
Around 2011 Peter Kerr from the Environment Agency funded a scheme on reparation for clearing a watercourse of shopping trolleys, overgrown vegetation and other blockages to reduce the flood risk in the area.
"We noticed early on that the young people working on the scheme actually enjoyed the work. They were learning about flood reduction, nature within the area and the effect of fly tipping/pollution has on the area we were working on (The young people didn’t realize they were learning while on the site!)
We also noticed that when their reparation hours had finished they wanted to continue working on the site voluntarily. We fed this information back and in short Peter and Davey must have had hundreds of meetings and the Skill Mill was born!
2018 will be the fifth year Shaun has been leading teams of young people at the Skill Mill, working outside and gaining knowledge and qualifications in the area of water and land management. "They are getting stuck in, clearing streams, reducing flood risks, seeing long term, real results of the work. And getting paid for it."
He enjoys the challenge of working with different teams and getting to know them - having massive respect for the young people he works with helps. "I can see a bit of me in all of them... getting on is about finding something in common, even if it's as daft as not liking Eastenders."
Away from the Skill Mill Shaun (unfortunately for him) is a season ticket holder at Newcastle United and spends all his weekends watching his son play football!
A lesser known fact about him is he's also a bit of a wildlife geek - he can get very enthusiastic out with the team if he spots a kingfisher.