On Thursday 26 April 2018 26 year old Jamie Hodds spoke to the EN:Able Communities trustees and EN:Procure Social Value team at the Hull KR KCOM Craven Park Hull. He talked about his journey into employment with the support of Grimsby social enterprise Empower. Empower is one of the local employment groups commissioned by EN:Procure to support individuals distanced from the labour market into training and employment to improve their life chances.
This is what he said:
“I had an appointment at Empower, having recently lost my job and now also having a criminal conviction. This was very much unchartered territory for me as I’d never been in trouble with the police before and it now made obtaining a job that much harder. I felt that I needed some extra support as this was a new mountain to climb and I knew I’d probably need some help along the way as everybody does in their lives at one point or another, as I later realised.
Meeting the Empower team, I was surprised to find warm, friendly and highly motivated mentors dedicated to helping others in their search for long-term sustainable employment. I was assigned a mentor and we discussed the various different avenues I would like to explore, including things like CSCS card, safety passport, college and apprenticeships, courses or qualifications that would add to my CV and help me look for work.
I attended numerous courses at BJB training, arranged through Empower, and I completed employability, health and safety, manual handling technique and warehouse and storage. I was then assigned to the hands-on part of the business that gives people opportunities to showcase what they’re capable of through active participation in construction work, gardening and landscaping, painting and decorating, catering and clearance work both indoors and out.
I wasn’t really in a good place and I couldn’t fully commit to this as I had a number of external crises happening in my life. I was still trying to progress through the training courses and qualifications I was attaining. I was being given the right advice at the time, and the right tools to move forward, but I couldn’t quite realise this as my mind had descended into a fog of depression with the problems that I had in my life and the issues around not dealing with my emotions and things that had happened earlier on in my life.
I then went on to complete a CSCS labourers card giving me a better chance for employment within the construction, landscaping and cleaning industries. We updated my CV to reflect my new qualifications and set about applying for even more jobs whilst trying to address my personal issues with Empower’s help.
At the start of 2016, I was employed with RPM Industrial Services. I disengaged from Empower, thanking them for all the help I’d received. By the end of February, I’d learnt that my contract was only temporary, and we were running out of work, so my contract was about to be terminated. This was also going to have a knock-on effect to where I was living and I now needed to find somewhere to live. I felt I needed some advice and support on these issues, so I went back to Empower to see if I could re-engage once again and maybe get signed up for college later in the year.
By March I was homeless once again, not being able to pay the rent due to having no job and having to reinstate my claim at the Job Centre, which took some considerable time to get straightened out. I lived with my girlfriend for a short period of time and managed to complete Safety Passport course and also receive Level 2 IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) certification. We felt this would help to extend my job search even further, opening up more options for me to pursue such as a job in engineering or shutdowns on the refineries or something similar.
Whilst I was doing all I could to find employment, I didn’t feel the need to see my mentor each week. I was then moved to Light Touch whilst carrying out the above training. I had, at this stage, exhausted all funding that was available to Empower to support me, yet they agreed to continue to support me and see me on a monthly basis or have telephone contact with me as and when required. During this time my mentor encouraged me to go back to college. By September 2016 I was attending college, enrolled onto the access to higher education course allowing, on completion, for me to go to university and continue with my studies.
In November 2016, I was attending probation and was put forward for a meeting with the engagement team member from User Voice, an organisation set up to improve prison and probation services through working with ex-offenders to find out the problems and come up with solutions. I signed up immediately. With the problems in my personal life, I ended up leaving college and I was struggling to keep to deadlines due to a number of factors and could have done with some support and advice. But having started college and I’d stopped engaging with Empower, I knew I had an opportunity with User Voice to progress myself so, I continued, and this would allow me to still have something to focus on, other than the negatives in my life. I went back to Empower and requested to see someone regularly as I needed the extra support and guidance that I had before.
In February 2017 I was back in full-time support with Empower as it was agreed that an additional funding mechanism could be accessed. I needed somewhere to live as I could not remain where I was living, so a referral to the Home Options team was made by Empower.
By May 2017 I had moved into the YMCA, continued with my User Voice volunteering, had become a User Voice council member, and started to shadow staff at various events, taking on more and more responsibility and gaining a better understanding of what is required of a mentor.
In June 2017 I progressed onto the YMCA community house where I lived in a shared house with the other YMCA clients who were in a similar position to myself, and who were almost ready to move on to their own properties.
In July 2017 I signed up for counselling and anger-management and it has helped me to deal with the issues in my early life.
In August 2017 I was put forward to be a peer mentor for the CRC, showing how far I’ve come since first engaging with User Voice and Empower. I then started volunteering 2 days a week at Empower, shadowing various staff members in different roles such as administration and mentoring to gain a better understanding of what is required within the organisation.
In February I completed a locksmithing course paid for by the Job Centre but further organised through Empower, in order to progress with Safer Homes Target Hardening side of the organisation. I then volunteered 2 days a week with Empower Safer Homes, visiting people in the community who are victims of crime. Securing their house as much as possible in order for the customer to feel much safer in their property. Fitting window alarms, door chains and letterbox jammers and changing locks and also cutting new keys.
I’ve recently secured employment with Empower 2 days a week, target hardening in the community with Safer Homes and 2 days a week as a trainee mentor helping clients with job search, CV writing, cover letter writing and signposting CRC clients.
I’ve now moved into my own flat with my girlfriend and our dog, as, once in paid work, I was no longer able to stay in the YMCA community house for a number of reasons. I would have liked to have stayed there for a while and get myself in a better financial position. However, the policy does not allow for this long-term and my rent would have increased beyond what I could afford. I now realise I’m in a far better position than I have been for a long time and I still have a long distance to travel. But I believe with the right advice, support and guidance, that this will now be possible.
I just want to say thank you to Empower, thank you to everybody because without the funding, people like me just slip through the cracks and they’d be lost forever. Empower has dragged me back up and sorted me out. Now I’m getting on with my mum, getting on with my dad and things are going really well. So, things are moving in a positive direction which is really good for me.
Thank you for your time.”
A smartphone video of his speech can be viewed HERE.