Colin Birchall is the irrepressible driving force behind Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG) one of the region's biggest business success stories.

The chief executive's boundless energy and total commitment to "unearthing the spark of brilliance in everyone" has put the company at the forefront of delivering Government-funded Welfare to Work initiatives across the country.

The company, launched in Solihull in 1998 with just a handful of employees, has grown significantly and now employs 650 staff. It delivers employment and training initiatives helping disadvantaged job seekers in Birmingham, Solihull, West Bromwich, The Marches, Liverpool, Teesside and Islington access the workplace or self-employment.

More than 60,000 job seekers have been helped into sustained employment since the projects began.

A year ago the companys achievements were recognised nationally when it won a business Oscar - the Customer Excellence Award at the Confederation of British Industry's Growing Business Awards.

It s a company with an extremely strong social conscience. Last month it clinched the Best Overall prize at the National Payroll Giving Awards.

PPDG workers contribute each month to a Give As You Earn (GAYE) scheme and have donated more than £30,000 to around 150 good causes and charities in the last year alone.

PPDG helps many charities and good causes in a wide variety of ways, from donations of cash and equipment to the secondment of employees.

Mr Birchall believes in making a difference. As a former scrum-half, he tackles challenges in life and in business with the same enthusiasm, grit and determination he displayed during his career on the rugby field.

These same qualities are now being directed towards generating support for the charity which is perhaps closest to his heart - Building Blocks, the registered charity of the West Midlands Police.

He firmly believes Building Blocks gives businesses a real opportunity to help lay the foundations for a safer society by supporting projects that divert young people away from a life of crime.

Established eight years ago, the charity has a proven track record of reducing numbers of young offenders. Young people across the West Midlands have already enjoyed life-changing experiences through the charity's work.

He said: "Since 1999, more than £215,000 has been donated to many deserving organisations, but we know that even more can be achieved with greater support from the business community.

"We want more people to get involved with Building Blocks. We are urging businesses to grasp the opportunity to become associated with an extremely worthwhile cause which is ensuring that genuine social inclusion is within reach of all communities.

"West Midlands Police aims to reduce crime and disorder and make our communities feel safer. Corporate involvement with Building Blocks provides West Midlands business with an opportunity to work alongside our police force to help tackle the causes of crime.

"When we got involved with Building Blocks it was one of the best decisions we ever made. It gives us a chance to see first hand some of the fantastic work that goes on, to realise that you can have a positive affect on what happens out there, and to give young people a helping hand."

Mr Birchall's past provides an insight into why he feels so strongly about helping the unemployed and disadvantaged, and young people in particular.

"My family moved to Birmingham from Liverpool in 1962, when I was nine. In Birmingham, we didn't have enough money to heat the front room of our semi-detached house. We didn't have lots of possessions, but we did get lots of love and affection. When you face adversity you have to hold on to the things that are secure in your life, such as family.

"I wasn't particularly good at attending school. I didn't have a lot of interest in lessons, so I sought my adventure and my learning in other ways.

"However, along the way I was very fortunate. I met an exceptionally good teacher at Marsh Hill Junior School who realised that I had ability at sport and in particular at gymnastics. The deal was that by attending gym club I had to attend school lessons as well. I started to enjoy school and I started to improve educationally as well.

"Young people, people living on the fringes, can be misunderstood. I have always had an interest in supporting young people. My wife Linda and I have done that throughout our lives through a range of different uniformed organisations, like the Boys Brigade in Erdington, and through clubs such as Sutton Coldfield Rugby Club.

"When we were in our early 20s we became social workers specifically working in the Newtown area of Birmingham, running an adolescent unit in Hospital Street for 16 boys and girls. We were not much older than them ourselves. We learned quite a lot about young people and we had an awful lot to learn about how to give them a happy and safe environment.

"We did that for four years. We learned a lot. We discovered that young people sometimes get a reputation that is not always true. When you get beyond the image they put forward they are usually much nicer, kinder people than they are sometimes portrayed.

"We left social work and developed our careers, but I have always maintained links, through the jobs I've done, to things that support young people and their development.

"Coming to PPDG brought together the last 20 years of my career and gave me an opportunity to try to work with communities, help them find jobs and re-invent themselves to put them in a better economic situation."

PPDG had been working closely with West Midlands Police on several community projects and had developed a good working relationship.

"Because of the work we were doing I was contacted by the Assistant Chief Constable Chris Simms who suggested that, because of our involvement with all the community things we did, I might be interested in becoming a trustee of Building Blocks.

"I saw an awful lot of synergy between PPDG and the principles of the charity and what it seeks to achieve - keeping young people out of crime, keeping young people away from drugs, endeavouring to change behaviour and making communities safe and better places to live. Lots of that had total synergy with what PPDG was doing.

"What you get with Building Blocks is fantastic value for money as a businessman. In Building Blocks you have a zero administration charge for a start, so all the money goes to support the aims and objectives of the charity. Therefore modest donations can go a long way.

"Businesses can have an influence in their own communities because they may know of good causes that Building Blocks may not have heard of. They can introduce those projects, seek to support them and seek to ensure that their donation is directed to a project in their area."