My working career has been varied over the years; I have worked previously as a printer, then in various factories as a paint sprayer for kitchens and also as a forklift truck driver.

Whilst I enjoyed these roles I had always felt that I would like to have a change of career, but was unsure of what direction I should take. I was told by a good friend of mine who was going through a really bad patch in her life that talking to me really helped her, and that I had the skills to take this forward as a career.

Whilst working full time, I started to work voluntary to gain skills and experience, I volunteered as an outreach worker for an organisation that provided free needle exchange. I knew then that this kind of role was what I was good at and excelled in. I then volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau and at a women’s refuge - this was also a role I thoroughly enjoyed. I gained extensive training from all these roles that stood me in good stead for further support roles.

Originally from Hull, east Yorkshire, I moved to Ceredigion over 10 years ago with my family, and was lucky enough to secure a job supporting unemployed individuals.

In recent years I took up the role of Mentor with Workways+. Workways + supports people who are unemployed: aged over 25, and have additional barriers; for example: ill health, disability, age, have caring responsibilities or come from households where no one else works.

My role as Mentor involves working with adults that are sometimes furthest away from the employment market, providing them with the skills they need to gain employment. Workways+ provides opportunities for Mentors to work with individuals on a one to one basis, creating CVs, undertaking job search, accessing possible volunteering placements and training.

We are a small team that involves myself and 3 other mentors Al and Carly cover the north and myself and Ffion cover the south of the county but we work together to share ideas and work cooperatively.

My typical working day consists of engaging with unemployed individuals. Once enrolled, I work with an individual to create a plan specific to their needs and their expectations. Through this planning we can identify the type of employment that they want to enter into and what skills are needed, this may including attending a course to gain a qualification, looking at suitable transport, also confidence building, interview skills and arranging voluntary placements to gain experience, all geared to support the individual to achieve their goal.

Over the last six months I’ve been supporting Amanda Needham 57, who recently moved to the area along with her husband to look for work. Amanda has previous experience in retail roles, and was hoping for a role that wasn’t too stressful with hours that would suit her. Not knowing what type of work available in the area, Amanda sought help and advice from Workways+.

Amanda has profound hearing difficulties which can be difficult in any work place but as her Mentor, we worked together to create a plan. Knowing what Amanda’s barrier was I was able to help by looking at what suitable employment options were available in the area. I made contact with a local employer in the area that was setting up a new campsite with farm shop and bistro café.

Firstly, I established what employment opportunities were available at the farm and if any of these would suit Amanda. I then arranged for Amanda to gain some work experience at the farm where the owners were really pleased with her progress. They initially offered Amanda part-time work after she received training in Health and Safety. This has now progressed to working full-time at the bistro café near Aberaeron, with Amanda working towards further qualifications in Food Hygiene.

My role as a Mentor enables me to have the opportunity to help people like Amanda back into employment. It is such a rewarding feeling and it’s the main reason why I love my job so much. When I first meet people who’ve been out of work for many years, some can feel very low and have sometimes lost hope in finding a job that will suit them. It’s my job to show them that there are opportunities out there and how they can access them with our support. At Workways+ we can help show people that there are ways to overcome barriers; we can help to turn things around for the better.

I’m proud that I’m part of a proactive team at Workways+, where we can offer help, guidance and support in many different ways to the people who of Ceredigion.

Workways+ hold drop in sessions each week in the Job Centres at Aberystwyth and Cardigan for anyone wishing to enquire further about what Workways+ has to offer and how they can help people find suitable training or opportunities to get back into employment.

EU funds are having a positive impact on people, business and communities across Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire by raising skills and helping people into work. The project is backed by £17.3 million from the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government. To find out more information on Workways+ visit the website, follow us on Facebook or contact us on 01545 574 193 /