Last week ended on a positive note. For some time we had been mulling over the idea of Paul retraining so that eventually he could become self-employed. Paul does not have a specific trade but has much experience and skills relevant to working in the steel industry. As this is no longer a viable option Paul needs to retrain and upskill to give him the chance of making a decent living in the future. We thought that seven weeks on from the closure of SSI that Paul would be working. We did not expect the knock backs from Network Rail and Nissan and were perhaps looking at life through rose tinted spectacles. Of course Paul would find work. He has never been unemployed. Who wouldn’t want to employ a committed, skilled and ready to learn 35year old man? Unfortunately finding a job really is not that easy. Perhaps Paul could find work in an entirely different field. Retail? Call centres? That is not what he wants. He has always worked in heavy industry. That’s what he enjoys and that is what he is good at. He is not ready to throw in the towel and be satisfied with a job paying the minimum wage that gives him no satisfaction. To have your career taken away and be left searching is a truly depressing, sad experience. I am witnessing this right now and fully support Paul in finding something that gives him back his self-worth, confidence and happiness. We know he will never work anywhere like SSI again or with the lads he worked with. It was a great job, great money and great company. He knows he is lucky to have experienced that and striving to find the same will only end in disappointment. However, he does still have a bright future ahead of him, just this time he might need to work a little harder to achieve it and it will take time. We were hit, last week, with the harsh reality that we were facing a long, uncertain journey. Tears were shed and decisions were made.
Soon after the redundancy Paul contacted Trade Gateway, a training provider, and we met with one of their advisors, Tom. Tom came to meet us at home and talked us through the various training options and explained the course requirements to us. At this time we strongly believed that Paul would soon be in work and we didn’t feel ready to commit to the training right away. We would also have to finance the course ourselves and, with a limited income now, we felt concerned our budget would not be able to stretch to this extra expenditure. So Tom left us that evening with food for thought and although the chance at self-employment was very appealing we needed time to consider all of our options.
Fast forward a few weeks and Paul is still in the same redundant position he was in at the end of September. We have talked for weeks about him retraining and after the Nissan knock back we finally thought the time was right to contact Tom and get Paul signed up to the course. We are in a difficult situation right now. We know it won’t last but we also think we now need to take opportunities and make a better future for ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us and the promises of help with training from the government have not come to fruition. We cannot afford to wait for weeks to find out if Paul’s applications for funding have been successful. We need to start making positive steps forward now to ensure that we, and our daughters, have a secure future.
Tom was more than happy to sign Paul up to train as a gas engineer. The course should take around 18 months to complete and is very flexible in order to fit around any other commitments Paul may have. After 9 months Paul will be a qualified plumber and then he will continue to be trained as an electrician before completing the course to become a fully fledged gas engineer. Paul will still need to find work in the meantime or we will struggle to cover the cost of the course. However, our future is looking more positive now and Paul has something to strive for once again.
This week Paul is attending a fork lift truck driving course provided by the Job Centre. He is enjoying getting out every day and refreshing his skills. We hope by undertaking any training he can while he is not working will stand him in good stead when applying for jobs. There are jobs out there that require certain skills that Paul doesn’t yet have. He has applied for funding through the National Careers Service for his site safety passport and a course in Process Technology. These two things would definitely improve his skills and make his CV more attractive to potential employers. Unfortunately time is against us and what we see as a matter of urgency does not appear to be a matter of urgency for those who are in positions to help Paul. It is taking weeks to hear back from NCS about any funding and Paul feels as though he is perhaps an after thought because we do not live in Redcar or the surrounding areas. Paul sees his NCS worker in Sunderland and maybe that is the downside to living so far from where the centre of the crisis is. There is no sense of urgency. On the other hand living in Sunderland means that Paul may not be competing with 2000 other men for the jobs that are available in this area.
Paul has asked for feedback from all of his unsuccessful applications. Thus far he has received none. It would be beneficial to know why his applications have been declined after initial assessments have been passed, to give us some idea of what Paul needs to do to be successful. Again this is a frustration we face daily because those who could offer us some valuable information do not feel it necessary to contact us. They do not understand, or perhaps do not like to think about, the situation we are in. We would welcome any constructive feedback that would give Paul the chance of improving future applications leading to success.
Now Paul is a student of East Durham College and is looking forward to starting his training. This could be a huge opportunity for him and we hope our future will be improved through his decision to retrain. He will be successful I’m sure of it.