A few of our success stories…

Cameron Lawson

Cameron pictured with FTW trainer Ian Skelly

Cameron pictured with FTW trainer Ian Skelly

The vicious circle of being homeless and jobless has been broken for Cameron Lawson, thanks to an initiative between Progress to Excellence and FTW Training.

At the age of 18, Cameron found himself with nowhere to live because of a family situation. He had no job, little hope of getting one and relying on friends for a roof over his head. But less than a year on, life’s taken a massive turn for the better – all due to a combination of help and support from FTW and his own determination to get his life back on track.

Jamie Rice, training manager at FTW, explained: “We heard of Cameron’s plight through one of our young employees, Fletcher Smith, who had taken his friend in after finding out he’d been made homeless.

“Fletcher – who incidentally was named Apprentice of the Year at the Progress to Excellence Training and Education Awards earlier this year – asked if there was anything we could do at FTW to help. The trouble was though that, because he was homeless, Cameron couldn’t claim any benefits so didn’t qualify to go on the government’s Sector Based Work Academy Programme, specifically designed to get unemployed people into work.

“He was in this dreadful vicious circle – wanting to get training to set him on the road to a real job and money of his own but simply unable to do so. We believed the right thing to do was to fund his training ourselves, a decision that has paid huge dividends for Cameron and means he has a great future ahead of him.”

Cameron, who is now 19, successfully completed a Level 2 qualification in Warehousing and Storage, a Level 2 in Customer Service and gained a fork-lift truck licence following his training at FTW’s base in Widnes. He’s currently working in a warehousing role at Hatton’s Model Railways, also in Widnes.

Cameron said: “After being made homeless, I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d nowhere to go and was relying on friends to let me stay with them. It was Fletcher who asked if there was anything at all for me at FTW. I can’t imagine where I’d be without all their help and support.

“I loved the training. Actually having something to get up for in the morning gave me a focus, kept my mind off the position I was in and, for the first time in a while, I had goals and things to achieve. I’m now earning good money, have learned new and transferable skills and, what’s more, have somewhere to live. My home is now with my grandparents who are not only supportive of me but also proud of my achievements.”

Damian Burdin, chief executive of Progress to Excellence Ltd, described Cameron’s life-changing action to turn his life around as “inspiring” and said: “Good news like this, where a young person has, through unfortunate circumstances, hit rock bottom and is now enjoying a fulfilled life show what can be done by effort and determination.“It also shows how a supportive organisation like FTW Training puts its faith in someone like Cameron by putting him on the right path to a good job and ultimately the hope of a brighter future.”

Shannon Sample

Shannon receives her Outstanding Learner of the Year trophy from Dame Lorna Muirhead, Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, at the Progress to Excellence Training and Education Awards 2015

The road to achieving a major accolade as a young learner began for 19-year-old Shannon Sample with her work as a volunteer with disabled young people.

Her passion and commitment to her role led to an apprenticeship and then the honour earlier this year of being named Outstanding Learner of the Year at the Progress to Excellence Training and Education Awards 2015.

As a classroom assistant for the Wirral-based charity Stick ‘n’ Step, Shannon is now helping to make a massive difference to the lives of children with cerebral palsy, working for an organisation that runs free conductive education sessions to stretch their abilities and help them to lead independent lives.

Like many teenagers preparing to leave school, Shannon had no fixed ideas about what she wanted to do.

She said: “I was choosing between childcare and hairdressing but decided to go down the health and social care route. When I was given the chance to volunteer at Stick ‘n’ Step, I hadn’t even thought about working with disabled children and had no idea what cerebral palsy was.

“But in my year of volunteering, I learned so much and really loved the work I was doing so, when I was asked if I wanted to become an apprentice, I was so pleased.”

Shannon, a learner with Progress to Excellence, has just completed her Children and Young People’s Workforce NVQ Level 2.

She continued: “By volunteering at the centre, the charity saw I had the potential to make a career out of caring for young people with disabilities. Stick ‘n’ Step and my assessor, Clare Wharton, were so supportive of me both as a person and as a learner.

“The work is amazing, helping during sessions with various activities and exercises for young people aged from a few months to 18.

“It’s the best job ever, working with these children and knowing I can make a big difference to their lives.”

Lyn Mitchell

The culture shock of returning to life in England after many years in Germany left Lyn Mitchell lacking in confidence when searching for a satisfying job role – that is until she set out on her learner journey.

Not only, she says, has she now developed as an individual but also has new skills and understanding she can offer to her employers and to the team she works with.

Lyn, 54, is admin support officer with Community & Voluntary Services Cheshire East (CVSCE), the Sandbach-based charity that offers support and services to a wide range of local voluntary and community groups.

Until 11 years ago, her life was in Germany with her husband who was in the armed forces.

She said: “I’ve always been in work since leaving school but I’ve never been satisfied with the qualifications I gained and consequently lacked confidence in my learning abiliity. I always knew I could do better but didn’t know how to get there.

“Coming back to England was something of a culture shock too as I wanted a job but finding my feet in Civvy Street wasn’t easy.

“I tried a few jobs but never really felt settled in any of them. Then I started working for Cheshire Probation Service – and felt I had come alive. This was just the sort of work I wanted to do and which set me on the learning track, knowing I was capable of achieving the good qualifications I didn’t get at school.”

Lyn’s learner journey began with Progress to Excellence and she continued this relationship with the company in her role with CVSCE. She has now completed her NVQ Level 4 in Business Administration.

She said: “I absolutely loved studying for the qualification – it was very challenging but very rewarding too.

“I thoroughly enjoyed taking overall responsibility for mapping my own course work as well as the research I had to do to enhance my current skills.

“By taking this qualification, I have been able to reference the work I have done over many years and have proven to myself that I am capable and have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

“I always knew I could do my job but the qualification actually confirms my knowledge and experience.

“It’s also proved to me that you can do anything at any time in your life. Age is just a number and learning is something you can tackle no matter when.”

Lyn praised her Progress to Excellence assessor Nikki Bamford for her support and encouragement, saying: “Nikki took the time to understand me as an individual as well as a learner, giving me constructive feedback and positive reinforcement when my work was completed to a high standard.

“She was also aware of my lack of confidence at the start and gave me the encouragement to believe in myself and to recognise my abilities to learn.”

Robert Shea-Simonds

It’s said that age is just a number – and Robert Shea-Simonds is working proof that this is true.

Robert, who is an employment adviser with Richmond Fellowship’s Wiltshire Employment Service, this year completed the Level 4 QCF Diploma Course in Advice and Guidance through Progress to Excellence.

His success in achieving the qualification co-incided with his 70th birthday.

Robert’s 52-year working career – as well as his job-related learning and development – continues at an age when most people would have fully retired.

Thanks to Richmond Fellowship’s Learning and Development Employee Programme, Robert grasped the opportunity for continued training as well as retaining his part-time employment well past normal retirement age.

Robert says he has thoroughly enjoyed his non-stop career which has taken him through a varied selection of jobs, mainly in sales, general management and recruitment as well as roles within the hospitality and health sectors.

Recalling his working life, Robert says: “My first job was in the motor trade in 1962 and I remember a memorable moment in 1969 when I sold a brand new Series 2 Jaguar E Type FHC to my father for just over £2,000.

“This is one area where age certainly is a number – that same car would sell for about £40,000 today!”

Robert moved into sales in the manufacturing sector in in the mid-1970s and went on to set up a cardboard box manufacturing business in 1976. An enforced change of career in the mid-1990s saw him move into health support and then into commercial recruitment at the beginning of the 21st century.

Robert continues: “When retirement age beckoned in 2009, I started to look for a suitable part-time role and was delighted to progress through a recruitment process with Richmond Fellowship and landed a nine-month maternity cover contract with Wiltshire Employment Service.

“Four-and-a-half years later, I’m still here!

“My thanks for this opportunity to have a fulfilling career go to Nikki Bamford at Progress to Excellence, to Richmond Fellowship and to my fantastic work colleagues. I hope my employment and training will long continue.”

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