Sylvia was thrown off her career path when the affects of the pandemic took hold. Now, she has gone full circle and is giving back the exact same support that she received herself when she was at her lowest.

“Last April, I was sadly unable to continue my wonderful job as a professional photographer. Apparently, we had a pandemic. Did you know?!

“For me, this meant that schools were closed, weddings and family parties were cancelled, and I had no money coming in. I applied for the government furlough scheme but was unlucky. I was told to apply for Universal Credit; this was a dreadful thought as I had never claimed anything apart from family allowance.

“However, I did apply, and a lovely lady called Carol introduced herself to me. I felt as if I had known her forever. She was warm and engaging, so I thought ‘Ok! I’ll give this JETS scheme a whirl and see how it goes’.

“A few days after chatting to Carol, I was assigned to Nicola at Prospect Training Services and, once again, I felt as if I was talking to an old friend. These people really appeared to care about me! Every week, I was contacted and sent job links that were of interest to me. I was keen and applied for everything. I wasn’t worried about having my benefit revoked; I just wanted to do something. I am not too keen on sitting still and doing nothing.

“By this time, I was busy in the community, volunteering with the Fair Shares food project. I would help unload 13 pallets (stacked with food from floor to ceiling), from a Downton’s lorry, carry it all into St Barnabas church hall, then reallocate it to the 29 different groups across the city. This was a mammoth task but gave me immense satisfaction and joy.

“As the weeks went on, Nicola mentioned that there was a job available at Prospect Training Services and asked if I was interested. My immediate answer was no! I was a teacher and photographer. I had no experience of working in an office, let alone talking to people!

“With some gentle persuasion, I was put forward for an interview. I was to chat on Teams with Nik and Fran. (What was Teams? Were we playing rugby?!) My interview happened and I thought I had blown it. I was completely useless and could not give definitive answers, but unbelievably, I was offered the job!

“At the beginning of April, I began my training as an Employment Advisor and began a new career path in advising people and job hunting. Such fun! I was suddenly a team player with a great bunch of friendly people. I messed up many times (in fact I am still making mistakes), but everyone was kind and helpful.

“Have I made a difference? I do not know, but I know I enjoy what I do and becoming a member of the JETS team has given me confidence and made me feel like I belong. Everyone has their strengths and we work together, to help people find a job and regain their self-worth.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with the participants and encouraging them to talk to me and engage in how I can help them. It is quite amazing how much trust people have in you! Some of the things I am told, during a telephone appointment, are incredibly personal, but by building up a rapport with the participant, they feel at ease and work hard to do as we suggest.

“The satisfaction of putting someone back in to work, after feeling low and worthless, is an absolute joy and a privilege. I truly am giving back to the community and am pleased I was given the chance to make a difference.”

In partnership with Prospect Training Services. The Work and Health JETS programme is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund.

Area: Gloucestershire

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