Matt Bowler, Director of award winning events company Vantage Event Structures, has been nominated for a Mentor of the Year gong at this year’s SME National Business Awards for his ongoing contribution to the community via work placements and apprentice schemes he has devised to keep kids off the street and rehabilitate prisoners from HMP Springhill.
Matt, who won Entrepreneur of the Year at this year’s MKBAA awards, set up his first company MK Scaffolding, aged 21 and from there went on to set up Vantage Event Structures which has Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show and London Fashion Week on its regular client list.
As well as this, Matt has also collaborated with fine artists such as Graham Hudson and Carsten Holler, working on installations for Burberry and art galleries including The Hayward and the V&A Museum. But the refined world of fashion and art is a far cry from Matt’s own roots which are more akin to the lads who have been involved with knife crime.
Over the past 15 years Matt has encouraged numerous disenfranchised young people to join his workforce through his Scaffolding Apprentice Scheme, which he is currently running in conjunction with the National Construction College.
The scheme enables school leavers to train on the job and become fully qualified part 2 scaffolders in just over 2 years.
Similarly, Matt ran a scheme in conjunction with Springhill Prison from 2012 whereby inmates were given the opportunity to work for Matt one day a week and gain their qualifications, whilst still serving their sentence, so that on release they were highly employable and ready for mainstream life.
Andrew Sibley, now a successful film studio rigger was one such inmate on Matt’s prison scheme.
He said, “I’m an ex-criminal and that’s all I knew. Matt encouraged me and helped me learn skills, told me I was good at it and now I work in film. If I hadn’t met Matt and learnt the trade, considering how hard it is out there, I’d have gone back to prison. He’s a good man, good fella”.
Likewise, the young apprentices on his scheme such as Corey Robertson openly admit, that without the apprentice scheme at MK Scaffolding/Vantage, life could have turned out very differently.
Matt is a true believer in second chances and that hard work and dedication are the means for any young person to turn their life around. That sentiment is particularly pertinent in Milton Keynes today, considering, only last week, two young men, Dom Ansah and Ben Gillham Rice, were knifed to death in a gang related crime.
As MK Entrepreneur of the Year, Matt is keen to point out his own life story and how turning away from gangs and violence and channelling that energy into something productive is the way forward.
With knife crime having risen 90% in just 2 years in MK, Matt’s recent Facebook post calling out crime and encouraging young people to “Put down the blade & pick up the spanner. @mkscaffoldingspecialists & @vantageevents are recruiting teenage apprentices for our brand new scheme to help teenagers discover their self-worth through work.” It’s no wonder Matt’s post received 473 likes and over 1000 shares.
Matt is really thrilled to have been nominated for the SME Mentor Award 2019, for his contribution towards his community. A true believer in giving something back, he’s supporting the YMCA Milton Keynes and Northampton through his most recent Christmas event Winterland MK at Towcester Racecourse.
The Christmas event will take place from 22nd November to 5 January 2020, and will see 10% of all sponsorship proceeds from the event go to charity. On top of this, Matt has signed up to do the CEO Sleepout to raise funds for the homeless in Milton Keynes.