Qualified teacher Yvonne Taylor, 58, signed up to Exeter City Community Trust’s 'Positive Prospects' employability programme after being out of work for nine months due to multiple health issues.
And although the face-to-face delivery of the course has been temporarily halted by the coronavirus pandemic, Yvonne says she has already gained a great deal from the programme, both professionally and personally.
Yvonne says: "I was both relieved and grateful to learn of and be offered a place on the Exeter City Community Trust Positive Prospects employability course. My life has been turned upside down of late to the point where I felt there was little or no earthly purpose for me anymore, even if there ever was. Life was pretty grim.
“But these few short weeks have given me such a lift that I feel accepted and not hated by everyone just because I’m different. Although life remains challenging, I’d be totally lost, alone and hungry without Exeter City Community Trust and am grateful both to the DWP for their referral and the Trust for all they continue to do for us all."
Positive Prospects helps people aged over 40 who are looking to get back into the workplace. The programme is one of a wide range of courses which are offered at football Clubs around the country which help people develop the necessary skills to find work.
Positive Prospects is delivered over a 12-week period with the aim of helping people to achieve their potential and progress to meaningful, sustainable employment. Each participant is assigned a mentor who will work with them to create a specific programme which can include language and communication, interview skills, basic IT skill or confidence building. The course can also include some physical activity in recognition that barriers to employment are necessary all skills based and improving health and wellbeing can also improve a person’s job prospects.
Yvonne adds: "It is hoped the course can resume once we are all able to safely meet together again, when there are plans for us to engage in some work experience with John Lewis in Exeter if this is still possible given the impact of COVID-19 on business and commerce. My hope is that with skills I already possess, the Trust will be able to help me grow in confidence and get back into work doing something more compatible with my skillset and qualifications which I can excel at and therefore find the professional fulfilment which has so far eluded me in life."
One of Yvonne’s concerns on joining the group was that she would feel excluded. She adds: "I was concerned that nobody would sit or talk with me and I wouldn’t get on with anyone. Well how wrong was I! I found myself sat with two lovely, friendly ladies who quickly became good friends who I enjoy helping with some of the computer we are set, to validate our IT skills for the qualification offered with this course.
"I’m qualified at Level 7 and trained to teach, but life hasn’t been kind on the career front so I struggle with confidence and self-esteem. Yet, apart from a very painful hip, my struggles melted away thanks to the most friendly, reassuring and supportive leaders in Laura, Jamie and others in the most relaxed group environment I’ve ever known.
"I’ve loved sharing a joke or two with everyone, especially a burly Leeds United fan, who’s great fun to be around even though I’m an alienated Sheffield Wednesday supporter having lived in Sheffield during the 1990s!"
Yvonne has also been supported through Exeter City Community Trust’s work to support shielded, isolated and vulnerable people through the delivery and collection of vital food and medicine. The charity is playing a key role in the newly-established Exeter Community Wellbeing initiative – set up to respond to public need caused by coronavirus.
"All of this has helped me feel human and not so alone, like I have especially in recent months. We’ve had a visit with talk from the guys and girls of Devon Fire Brigade who are brilliant and also a guided tour of the football club which was fascinating, during which I realised the last time I set foot in the ground was back in 1984, when Exeter City beat Newcastle United 4-0 in an FA Cup replay!
"The support and encouragement which I so desperately need, doesn’t stop at the end of sessions. With the onset of the COVID-19 virus, we were forced to stop sessions after only two weeks but have been repeatedly contacted by email and encouraged to be in touch if we need anything or even, like me, simply want some human engagement."