“I am enjoying being back in work!"


James' story

"I left school when I was 16 and went to college until I was 19. I’ve lived in Stockton all my life. When I left college I worked as a bus valeter which I really enjoyed. The business is variable though because of things like school holidays, and I was made redundant. This happened a couple of times from different bus companies and it was really up and down. I always wanted to work and I worked in Aldi for a while too.

I had another break in employment and at the same time there was a bereavement in my family when my Nana died. I started to feel really down about this. I was really low and had no self-confidence. I struggled to find another job.

When I was at the Job Centre, I heard about Step Forward Tees Valley and my brother was also being helped by them. I worked with my navigator Sarah and we worked on how I could plan a journey to get back into employment.

I went to the social group once a week – that’s a group that was focused on building confidence. It really helped me reduce my anxiety and feelings of isolation. I really enjoyed the group because I got to communicate with new people and make friends.  I also began to attend the Job Club on a Thursday where I could come and socialise, get out of the house and spend time with people.

My confidence started to grow. I talked to my navigator about doing some training to help me develop and gain new skills. I went on the courses with other participants that I made friends with in the group. I did a customer service course, food hygiene, health and safety and first aid.

I enjoyed completing the training because I liked to learn new things and I enjoyed being in a group environment and developing skills together. I got further involved in the programme and began volunteering.

I always had enjoyed volunteering and helped the food banks two nights a week, something I still do. I then did some other volunteering. Chris, one of the navigators, took a group to Norton Cricket Club to maintain the grounds. The sessions were great, it was fantastic to spend time outside, with other people and it helped improve health. I liked keeping busy and enjoyed helping others and I kept volunteering there every week. I like volunteering and helping people – I feel like I’m giving something back.  

After my confidence was built up, I did a work placement for four weeks at Bar Zero. I really enjoyed gaining new skills within the hospitality sector.

All of the experiences I had on the programme, with the support of my Navigator, including meeting new people, socialising in groups, volunteering, completing training and a work placement really helped me to grow in confidence, building on my skills and helped me move forward.

I was then contacted by a friend who offered me a job valeting for a bus service and I am really enjoying it. I am really looking forward to the future. Step Forward Tees Valley has really helped me because the programme picked me up when I was down and supported me to move back into work. I am very grateful for the support I received on my journey."