Lifelong Baggies fan and CEO of YMCA Birmingham tells us how after becoming disillusioned in Dudley he discovered his true calling in Brum
Alan Fraser is a chip off the old block. His father championed affordable housing on the board of an association in Birmingham and today Alan finds himself in a role not a million miles from that – although as Alan is quick to point out the YMCA is much more than cheap accommodation. Alan’s career didn’t get off to the best start and after graduating from Leeds University he found himself jobless and volunteered at a housing association to get some experience. “My degree in history and philosophy was all very interesting and thought provoking, but it didn’t do much for my immediate job prospects, so I found myself on the dole for a while. Volunteering enabled me to get a ‘proper’ job.” Back in the Midlands after ‘climbing the greasy pole’ at Dudley Council for a decade, Alan realised he’d lost sight of why he was doing it. “I applied for the CEO role at YMCA Redditch because the organisation mirrored my personal values so it felt like a good fit.”
After four years in Redditch, Alan took over the helm at YMCA Birmingham and has made a big impact at the charity. If like me you thought the YMCA just ran hostels think again. Alan explained the charities aims “to enable people to reach their full potential helping build a better Birmingham for everyone”. In practice this means not only running hostels but providing affordable housing and flexible childcare. “I remember when my children were small and we needed childcare from 10am to 2pm, but we had to pay for a whole day. That’s nonsense and doesn’t encourage people to get back into the workplace. Our nurseries provide affordable childcare for people who have erratic employment or work funny hours.” The charity offers training and is growing as an employer too with a hundred staff currently on the payroll in Birmingham. Alan has introduced some new revenue streams with much success. “People are suspicious of just handing over money to charity. They like to see something in return, so we rent out some of our spaces for business meetings, hire out the prayer room to churches, etc.” Far from his days in Dudley, Alan feels fulfilled and positive. He let slip that his teenage son, keen to perfect his German is about to embark on a year at the YMCA there as a volunteer. Another chip off the old block.