"I am building my skills for my chosen job"


Kenny's story

"I joined Step Forward because I’d been off work sick for 12 years. I’d needed three operations on my spine and had long-term illness. The injuries caused depression.

I was previously a mechanic but due to my illness, physical work was out. I was having to think outside the box. I was left thinking that at 57, is this the end of my working life, my career? People were saying I should retire and I was thinking: “I’ve not had a career yet! No thank you! There’s still life in the old dog yet!”

I was referred to Step Forward Tees Valley from Ageing Better Middlesbrough. Having had a number of health issues, I could not do the type of work I used to, and needed to think about changing my career. I had a number of other barriers at the time including financial issues and a conviction.

I sat with Michelle, my navigator, to develop a plan. She encouraged me to attend some voluntary group sessions called Community Heroes which I did and really enjoyed. In the background I was also working with Citizens Advice around my finances.

We discussed options for long term volunteering so I could get some experience in different roles. Through these discussions we came up with an idea to try and find volunteering work with Thirteen Group, a local housing provider, to work as a mentor for people struggling with housing problems.

I have been volunteering ever since. I now get to work in the community with people who need extra support. I love what I am doing and I love I have the chance to make a difference to others.

I am in a much better place now. I’m using my life experience to show people how you can get on the right track. I fell off the right track myself and if I can help someone get back onto the right track by sharing my experience, then that’s great. I’m hoping to get a full-time contract – I want to have a rewarding career.

It’s taken three years to get where I am now. It’s been a bit of long journey with bumps in the road but I feel absolutely fantastic about myself again now.

For a while I thought this was the end. I had a conviction and that meant doors were slammed. But Step Forward helped me work on my confidence and helped me see that not all employers would take it into account.

If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am now. They have built my confidence back up and my health’s back on track."