Today, the Lancaster Guardian teams up with Action 4 Employment (A4e) to launch our We Want to Work campaign.
Over the coming weeks, we will try to find work for six job-seekers from our district - each with a different story to tell but all united in their determination to find a job for the New Year.
Along the way, we will hear from staff at A4e’s Quarry Road, Lancaster, centre, which is contracted to run the Government’s Work Programme - tailored training and support to help the long-term unemployed.
They are currently working with around 1,000 people in the Lancaster district who have been referred from JobCentre Plus.
With your help, the six people we aim to find work for are:
* Ethan West, aged 19, a former apprentice mechanic from Lancaster
* Matthew Stinson, 22, from Low Bentham, previously an electrician’s mate
* Heather Mayne, 26, from Lancaster, ex-sales assistant
* Paul Hammond, 21, from Morecambe, a shop volunteer
* Glen Carmichael, 38, of Lancaster, who is looking for retail work
* Adam Knowles, 24, from Lancaster, an aspiring youth worker and ex-soldier
This week, we focus on Ethan, Matthew and Heather, hearing their stories, their hopes and find out what skills they can offer employers across the district.
We will also tell you how you can get involved by offering work to our job hunters and the incentives on offer if you do so. Later in the campaign, we will hear from one of A4e’s “success stories”, Alyson De Peiza, an office administrator who is setting up her own business.
Name: Ethan West
Age: 19 Lives: Lancaster
Ethan described himself as being a “nervous wreck” after he lost his job as an apprentice mechanic last year.
He has been working with A4e since September on improving his CV and they also helped him secure interviews.
Ethan, who hopes to forge a career in catering, has had three interviews since becoming unemployed and was offered a trial at the Gatehouse.
But, despite growing in confidence and staying positive, he is yet to find work and spends much of his time sending out CVs and applying for jobs advertised online.
Describing his journey, he said: “I was feeling depressed because it lowers your self-esteem being on the dole. But after a while, I thought ‘I’m not in that job anymore, so I’m going to have to try my best if I’m going to get anywhere’.
“I previously worked in a catering environment and I’ve help out my dad with his burger van since I was a kid.
“After I lost my job I was a nervous wreck and very shy, but since I came to A4E, I have grown more confident.
“They improved my CVs and set me up with interviews and I was getting more feedback.”
The support he has been given by the A4e team has helped Ethan become a better team player, he admitted, just one of the key skills he wants to offer to his next employer.
He added: “I’m confident and I can interact with customers face-to-face. I am also a better team player now than I originally was.
“I can work under pressure and can time keep easily. I have a creative mind and I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”
Name: Matthew Stinson
Lives: Low Bentham
Being laid off during his apprenticeship while working as a full-time electrician’s mate came as a huge blow to Matthew.
That was in the middle of 2012 and, agonisingly, came just two months before he would have qualified from the course he started in 2009.
Matthew, who has also worked as a farm labourer, has been working with A4e for three months.
Ideally, he would love the opportunity to finish his Level 3 qualification at Lancaster and Morecambe College and needs just three months’ employment to enable him to finish his portfolio of work.
While working through his apprenticeship, Matthew snapped up any overtime which was going, working both nights and weekends.
The holder of a Level 2 Rural Mechanics certificate, Matthew said: “I’m good at helping pretty much anyone. If I’m given jobs to do, I will happily do them.
“I know most of the basic electrical installations. I am always happy to help and will go out of my way to help.
“I’m good at time keeping, working with people and can work on my own aswell.”
The help he has picked up at A4e has included sharpening his CV, tips on sending speculative letters, organising paperwork and even clothes to look his best for interviews.
Not one to sit back waiting for a job to appear, the majority of Matthew’s free time is spent volunteering at a local garage, helping on a friend’s farm with tasks such as driving tractors and lambing and getting contact numbers off builders’ vans.
Matthew described himself as “reliable, hands-on and good with instructions”, adding: “I would do anything for a career and to get myself off the ground. I would absolutely love it, it would be the best thing to come along.”
Name: Heather Mayne
Heather excelled as a sales assistant at Matalan before she left to become her then partner’s full-time carer.
She hopes her strong customer service skills will help her get back into retail and, in the meantime, is volunteering with Cancer Research UK to re-build her confidence.
Such is her determination to work, she recoiled in anger when a friend recently turned down employment.
Heather said: “It would have meant the world to me because it’s really frustrating being out of work.
“My friend was offered a full-time job and turned it down.
“I was so angry she had been offered stable employment but turned it down.
“I have been on benefits for three years but I don’t want to be lazing around the house.”
Working in a shop gave Heather cash handling responsibility and skills in till operations and high-level customer care.
She explained: “A couple of ladies came into the shop one time and looked as though they needed help, so I went round the shop with them and they bought £50 worth of stuff.
“Another time they came back with four friends, asked for me by name and then they spent £200.
“I enjoy talking to people and asking about their day and having good customer relations.
“I think that, if I was going out shopping, I would want to be treated in a certain way.”
Heather is relatively new to the A4e programme but is enjoying taking advantage of its job-hunting expertise.
She added: “I haven’t been on the programme that long but it’s a really friendly place and it has a really comfortable atmosphere.”