Personal Story - Femi

Femi* completed Business in the Community's Ready for Work programme in Manchester in July 2010. Ready for Work engages business to support people like Femi, who had a criminal conviction and experiences of homelessness, into employment. With the help of two days of training, a voluntary work placement and a range of post-placement support, Femi secured a job. Two years on, things are going well. She spoke to us about her experiences before, during and after Ready for Work.

“I’m studying for a degree now in health and social care. Eventually I want to look after children or older people. So things are good now, much better than before.

Before Ready for Work, I was on my own with my youngest son. I’d lost my home and was staying with friends or just anyone we knew. It was difficult as I just wanted to be a good parent. Money was the problem and I made some bad decisions - I'm so ashamed of that. When I got a new house, my support worker really helped me to settle in. It needed some fixing up and this was so important after what I’d been through. I really trusted her.

It was my support worker that explained to me about the Ready for Work programme, the training and the placements but I nearly didn’t go. It’s difficult when you have to come to explain about your conviction. I’m not that person anymore - I’ve changed. It's difficult to explain about your feelings, to talk from your heart, and some people don’t understand. But, I was not comfortable in the community because I wasn’t working so I felt I needed someone to tell me what to do.

Gav [the Client Support Manager for Ready for Work in Manchester] rang me. He gave me excellent support and showed he understood that people make mistakes.  I felt very comfortable knowing he didn’t have a problem with my convictions. I wanted to get more confident and have a good future as a parent so I signed up for Ready for Work.

At the start of the programme, the training was excellent. It gave me confidence because I didn’t have any, particularly as I had been without work for too long. I didn’t think my confidence would come back so quickly. The training taught me to be comfortable and confident in what I say at interview.  And when I met the ladies from the store where I went for a work placement, they were so nice and supportive and helpful, I didn’t have any problems.

I spent my 2 weeks on the children’s section, doing different shifts. The team leaders were very supportive, teaching me and telling me I was a hard worker, that I took instruction well and that I knew what I was doing. And they talked to me about different 16 and 20 hour jobs that were coming up in August.

I was so interested in the jobs they mentioned, but I got a job at the University only a week after my placement instead.  It was so fast! Gav had told me about some building attendant jobs at the University and invited me to lunch there. We met some nice people and then, afterwards, my job coach helped me with my CV and helped me to get invited to an interview. I passed! That was 2 years ago.

Now, college is going really well. My CRB [Criminal Records check] comes back next week but it’s OK, I'm not worried, as I declared everything before asking if I could study. They had no problem with it and they even thanked me for telling them.”

Find out more about Ready for Work in Manchester and the North West.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people that we support. This piece has been edited from a longer interview.