Two perspectives, one story: Ready for Work at Carillion's Southmead Hospital

Liam Agg, Asset Care and CAGM  Manager, Carillion

Liam got involved in Ready for Work when he was approached by his manager about the opportunity.

“They said they were looking for volunteers for the programme and I always love to give something back - but I didn’t really know what it was all about until I went into the training!”

Ready for Work gives people facing multiple barriers to work the chance to gain meaningful work experience and enter employment. All volunteers are provided with training before they get involved with supporting the programme. Liam explains.

“The training prepares you for all circumstances and gives some background about the kind of experiences people might have had. I’m always one for giving people a chance, but I think I still had an idea in my head of the kind of person to expect.”

Business in the Community handles referrals to the programme, and provides participants with training before they begin a placement with partner companies like Carillion. When it came to his first day supporting the programme, Liam was surprised and impressed by the attitudes of the participants:

“Yes, they can often be facing challenging circumstances; but what I’ve found is they really want to work – they just need a break, someone to give them a chance.”

As one of the programme’s national partners, Carillion knows the importance of providing meaningful work experience – and this has been Liam’s experience of the programme:

“We don’t give them some things to do and not others. We make sure we give them tasks that a colleague might typically do. That way, if they can’t stay on with us then they’ve got some up-to-date experience for their CV.”

Fortunately, Carillion has been able to offer a number of roles to programme participants at the Southmead Hospital:

“We’ve had some great people on the programme – a couple of them are now my colleagues! One person who really stands out is Darren, who came through one of the first programmes we did at the hospital. From day one Darren was keen to try anything, with no task too big or too small. Thankfully we got the opportunity to keep him on, and after a month working here he had been nominated for a Values award.”

As well as providing Carillion with a diverse and enthusiastic talent pool, Ready for Work enables staff to develop through volunteering. Liam feels the programme has been particularly helpful for his soft skills:

“It’s helped me to empathise with people, to be a more understanding manager. Everyone’s got different circumstances or things happening at home, but actually we need to look past that and give people a chance.”

And how does Ready for Work make Liam feel about his employer?

“I know that Carillion are all about doing the right thing because they let us have so much time for volunteering outside of work! But this is also about using my skills at work to make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, it takes effort. But when you see the impact it has for someone like Darren not only do I enjoy it, I can see that it is so worthwhile.”

Darren Lawrence, Maintanance Assistant, Carillion

Darren had a stable job with a small communications company fitting digital aerials to people’s homes. But when he sustained a knee injury playing football, he was unable to work and eventually had to leave the company. Rehabilitation for his injury took longer than expected, and knocked Darren back.

After two years he felt able to apply for work again, but now with a gap in his CV, he received rejection after rejection. With no choice but to sign on, Darren attended the job centre regularly, but found the process demoralising.

‘Signing on wasn’t very appealing to me – I wanted to work, but I felt stuck’

But it was at the job centre that Darren met Charlotte – the Ready for Work programme manager in Bristol. Charlotte explained that the programme would give Darren the opportunity to get some work experience, and grow his confidence in the workplace.

‘The programme sounded great – much better than what I was doing at the time. Transport and food were paid for, so I thought – I’ve got nothing to lose’

Darren’s placement was at Southmead Hospital with Carillion, and he took the work straight away:

“I really enjoyed the work, I’d wake up with a smile on my face, because I oved coming in and doing the jobs that they gave me.”

At the end of his placement in November 2016, Carillion’s recruitment body Sky Blue asked for Darren’s CV, and told him they would be in touch with any opportunities. Two days before Christmas, Darren got a call:

‘They offered me a full-time job at the hospital. It made my Christmas – I felt brilliant, knowing I was now able to pay the bills, and be a better Dad to my children. Having a job gives me independence, I feel like I’m living in the real world again.I am so grateful to Carillion for giving me this opportunity – they’ve been really good from the start, supporting me with everything I need."